hate speech reinforces discrimination and stigmatization and most often targets women, refugees, migrants and minorities. If left unchecked, it can even harm peace and development, as it lays the foundation for conflict and tension, as well as large-scale human rights violations.
To reverse the rising tide of hatred, the United Nations marks the International Day for the Elimination of Hate Speech calling everyone to working together to build a more respectful and civil worldand for effective action to end this toxic and destructive phenomenon.
Responses must protect freedom of expression
UN Secretary General António Guterres Also warns that Erroneous and ambiguous responses to hate speech – including blanket bans and internet shutdowns – can also violate human rights by restricting freedom of speech and expression.
Similarly, senior UN human rights official Volker Türk says the spread of hate speech laws being diverted against journalists and human rights defenders East almost as viral as the spread of hate speech itself.
In his message for the Day, he points out that sweeping laws – which allow states to censor speech they find uncomfortable and to threaten or detain those who question government policy or criticize officials – violate rights and jeopardize essential public debate.
“Rather than criminalizing protected speech, we need states and companies to take urgent action to combat incitement to hatred and violencesays Mr. Türk.
“Amplify the voices that cut through hate”
But we are far from powerless in the face of hate speech, says Mr. Guterres, stressing that “we can and must raise awareness of its dangersand work to prevent and end it in all its forms.
He quotes the UN Strategy and action plan on hate speech as the Organization’s overarching framework for addressing the causes and impacts of hate speech, and notes that the global body’s offices and teams around the world are addressing hate speech by implementing local action plans, based on this strategy.
“The United Nations is consulting with governments, technology companies and others on a voluntary code of conduct for integrity of information on digital platformsaiming to reduce the spread of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, while protecting freedom of expression,” he adds.
Mr. Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calls for a range of actions – ranging from education initiatives and investing in digital literacy programs to listening to those who are the most effective in addressing hate speech and holding companies to their human rights obligations.
“We also need to do more to tackle mega-broadcasters – those public servants and influencers whose voices have a profound impact and whose examples inspire thousands of others,” Türk said. “We need to build networks and amplify voices that can cut through hate.”