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    A group of men calling themselves the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ are pictured on February 5, 2016 in Kemi, northern Finland. Fierce-looking men calling themselves the Soldiers of Odin patrol Finnish streets claiming to protect locals from asylum seekers

    Finland Sends Cops Online to Target Hate Speech Amid Societal Divisions

    © AFP 2019 / Sam Kingsley
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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
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    The ever growing migrant crisis has increasingly polarized Finland. The division is reflected by the dramatic rise of the far-right sentiments, which became a now the subject of a nation-wide debate. Today, Finland is seeking to clamp down on hate speech online in a bid to curb right-wing extremism.

    According to Interior Minister Paula Risikko, Finland could soon have more police officers scouring the internet to prevent and stop hate speech. The police should become more proactive in tackling hate speech and consider new ways of working to uncover, investigate and prevent extremist groups from operating online, Risikko told Finnish national broadcaster Yle. According to Risikko, the current legislation offers no distinct definition of what constitutes hate speech and should be amended.

    "Under the current legislation it seems difficult to investigate the background and motives of figures involved in hate speech, and to intervene," Risikko said, citing lawmakers' fragmented approach.

    Risikko's demands for more online policing come after last week's report by the Police University College, according to which hate crimes and racism seem to be on the rise in Finland, while an overwhelming majority of cases go unreported.

    The last drop, however, was the death of a 28-year-old anti-Nazi protester who was killed in a street fight after spitting at far-right members of the Finnish branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement (FRM) earlier this month. The organization is known for its opposition to non-white immigration to Scandinavia and aims at protecting the "indigenous population."

    The deadly scuffle, which took place at a FRM demonstration in Helsinki, has led to calls from numerous politicians, including Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, to ban the Finnish Resistance Movement together with its radical cousins. Sipilä was supported by Risikko, who felt that extremist organizations and their symbols should be banned.

    "Violence from extremist movements is a clear concern of the silent Finnish majority," Sipilä told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.

    ​The death of Jimi Joonas Karttunen, who died of brain hemorrhage one week after the fight, triggered a lively response across Finland. Last weekend, numerous demonstrations against both violent racism and unhinged immigration took place in the Nordic country. On Saturday, 15,000 protesters participated in the anti-racist Peli Poikki ("Stop the game") march locally dubbed "Day of Demonstrations," with similar demos being held in other Finnish cities.

    Counter-demonstrations also occurred in Helsinki. The anti-migrant Rajat Kiinni ("Close the borders") group also held a protest in the Finnish capital. Lastly, a group against same sex marriage laws was held in Helsinki.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
    Tags:
    hate speech, Nordic Resistance Movement, Yle, Paula Risikko, Juha Sipila, Scandinavia, Finland
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