Racist and abusive language is "commonplace" online in Finland and is on the rise in political discourse, a report by the Council of Europe warned yesterday. Although the Nordic nation frequently tops international comparisons regarding happiness, gender equality and quality of life, the population has the lowest share of foreign-born residents in Western Europe, at 6.6%, and anti-immigrant sentiment is widespread. The hard-line Finns Party, which campaigns on a platform of staunch opposition to asylum, has been the second-largest party in the past two general elections.
"Racist and intolerant hate speech in public discourse is escalating; the main targets are asylum-seekers and Muslims," the council's Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said in the report. Online "expressions of racism and xenophobia containing anti-immigrant rhetoric as well as targeting persons of African descent, LGBT persons and the Jewish community are commonplace, as is abusive language when referring to Roma," the authors said.
Last year, the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency found that people of African descent in Finland suffered the highest levels of perceived racial harassment and violence out of 12 member states studied. Finnish authorities recorded 1,165 hate crimes in 2017, but the report criticized the patchy collection of data which it said prevented accurate year-on-year comparisons. Nonetheless, it noted that civil society groups have marked an increase in hate incidents since 2015. Ethnic profiling by the police appears to still be common practice, despite being outlawed in 2015, the ECRI said, while criticizing the lack of diversity in the police, which it says does not reflect the diversity of Finland's population.