Sinti and Romani people have been living in Europe for more than six centuries. The history of antigypsyist rhetoric, discrimination and political persecution is just as long. Even though many countries have by now recognized Sinti and Roma as a national minority, intolerance remains and deeply embedded stereotypes still have a severe impact on the lives and opportunities of persons affected by antigypsyism. Today most antigypsyist rhetoric takes place online. In the analysed countries, criminalisation, welfare chauvinism and de-humanisation are the most common narratives. They are spread on Social Media, but also in (online) media outlets and the comment sections of articles and videos. Frequent tools used to spread antigypsyism are fake news reports and decontextualized images and videos.
The main narratives of antigypsyism online mirror the historical stereotypes and narratives that have been used for discrimination and persecution of Romani and other communities perceived as ‘gypsies’ for centuries. Criminalisation and construction of Sinti and Romani people as ‘beggars’ and ‘travelling communities’ who are unable or unwilling to integrate serve as excuses to call for discriminatory treatment and exclusion from the social aid system. Interestingly, the notion of ‘travelling communities’ remains a widespread stereotype, despite the majority of Sinti and Romani people living a sedentary life. The de-humanisation expressed in many comments on Social Media platforms and online media outlets often leads to calls for violence and even genocide.
Fake news and the de-contextualisation of images and videos is a popular tool to disseminate antigypsyist narratives and incite hostility against Sinti and Romani people. Most of those fake news stories are built around alleged special benefits for those communities.
Social Media, especially Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are still the platforms most commonly used to spread antigypsyist hate speech. Discussions in comment sections of YouTube videos and beneath the articles of online media outlets often become platforms for de-humanisation and incitement to violence. Biased media reporting reinforces existing negative stereotypes. A special responsibility also lies with politicians and other public figures.
In order to combat antigypsyism efficiently, the existing cooperation between Romani representatives, Civil Society Organisations, Internet Service Providers and public authorities needs to be strengthened. Media should take care to provide unbiased reporting on Sinti and Romani people as well as other marginalised minorities. Reliable moderation is needed in online discussion forums and the comment sections of online media outlets in order to prevent hateful content from reproducing hostilities and dominating the discussions.
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German version available here.
French version available here.