Does the Finnish police really care about online hate speech?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A total of 31 ethnic agitation cases were placed on the desk of the public prosecutor in 2019, which is a 59.2% drop from 76 cases in the previous year, according to Yle.

The number of ethnic agitation cases looks even more somber if we compare them with the cases that ended up in court. In 2016, only 11.9% ended up in court; the corresponding figure for 2017 and 2018 was 16.7% and 58.1%, respectively.

Ethnic agitation cases that ended up in district court in 2018. Even if such cases rose by 138.5% last year to 31, it is still only the microscopic tip of the iceberg. Source: Justice Ministry.
The number of ethnic agitation cases brought to the public prosecutor during 2016-2018.

Like hate crime and ethnic agitation cases, reporting sexual assault cases face the same challenges.

If Green League MP Iris Suomela is to be believed, she said in parliament in September that there are “hundreds of thousands” rape cases in Finland, of which 50,000 are reported annually to Victim Support Finland (RIKU). Of these, the police record about 1,200 cases of which around 200 get sentences.

Yle blames the lack of funding for the sharp drop in ethnic agitation cases investigated by the police.

“One reason is that the police don’t investigate online hate speech as actively as before,” Yle reports. In 2017, funds were earmarked to the police to recruit more police to investigate, among other matters, online hate speech.”

The number of online police officers has been scaled back. Police inspector Måns Enqvist of the National Board of Police of Finland said that there at the most 10 online police officers monitoring hate speech.

In the face of rising hate speech and ethnic friction, it is bad news for migrants and minorities in Finland.

Apart from funding, an important question we could ask is if the police prioritize hate crime cases and if they care. Sure, we can hear all the lip service about how the police have zero tolerance for racism, but in many cases, some of their actions speak louder than words.

Below are some incidents that eat away at police credibility and their standing in our culturally diverse community:

In the light of a drop in funds to investigate online hate crime and the questionable record of the police concerning racism among its ranks, there is only one conclusion: Online hate crime isn’t a high-priority issue for the police that exposes society’s exceptionalism.