Hate speech constitutes a threat to democratic values, and social cohesion; and has the potential to threaten social stability and peace.
This problem is only growing. Social media and other online communication platforms are increasingly being misused to spread intolerance and hate - mostly targeting minorities and already marginalised groups.
The design and algorithms of digital communication platforms support the rapid, and uncensored, spread of hate speech. As well as misogyny, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and disinformation.
The spread of conspiracy theories and rhetoric that stigmatises, and dehumanises, minorities and other vulnerable groups in society, is particularly worrying, as it has proven to be a possible early warning sign of mass atrocity crimes.
We are also deeply alarmed by hateful rhetoric that vilifies humanitarian workers, and humanitarian personnel seen in some conflict situations. This is outright dangerous. In Ethiopia, more than 23 humanitarian personnel have already lost their lives since the outset of conflict. We cannot allow hate speech to put at risk anymore.
Further, we have seen that spread of false news, hate speech and inflammatory rhetoric, in particular through social media, has been a big challenge in Myanmar and there are worrying trends also in other conflicts around the world.
Tackling hate speech before it goes into the dangerous territory of inciting discrimination, hostility, and violence, is imperative. But more speech, not less, is necessary to empower people to recognise, reject, and stand up to hate speech and discrimination.
National legislation cannot restrict freedom of expression other than under exceptional circumstances. The Rabat Plan of Action and threshold test on incitement to hatred, should be applied when monitoring hate speech, and identifying actions.
There are unfortunately many examples of legislation being misused to restrict the freedom of expression in a way that also undermines the right of minorities, and silences human rights defenders, journalists, and activists.
The UN strategy and action plan on hate speech provides good strategic guidance on how we should address root causes and drivers of hate speech, and also how to enable effective responses to the impacts of hate speech.
And we must do so in multiple ways including:
· We need to strengthen intercultural dialogue and promote values of tolerance, non-discrimination, and respect for human rights.
· We need to strengthen media and information literacy among the public.
· And we need to keep the protection of, and respect for, human rights at the core of the dialogue and cooperation between: governments, social media companies, and civil society when dealing with hate speech.
Furthermore, these consultations must be diverse, and gender sensitive. Online gender-based violence is a barrier to women’s participation in peace and security efforts. We must increase our efforts to ensure accountability for online as well as offline violence and abuse.