UN chief warns of online stigma
International Day for Countering Hate Speech marked
Published: Jun 19, 2022 05:53 PM
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to the press at the UN headquarters in New York, Feb. 22, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to the press at the UN headquarters in New York, Feb. 22, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday warned against the stigma and discrimination fanned by the internet and social media.

"The internet and social media have turbocharged hate speech, enabling it to spread like wildfire across borders," the UN chief said in his message for the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, which was marked the first time since a UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a related resolution in 2021.

"The spread of hate speech against minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic provides further evidence that many societies are highly vulnerable to the stigma, discrimination and conspiracies it promotes," the secretary-general noted.

Guterres underlined that "hate speech incites violence, undermines diversity and social cohesion, and threatens the common values and principles that bind us together."

"It promotes racism, xenophobia and misogyny; it dehumanizes individuals and communities; and it has a serious impact on our efforts to promote peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development," he said. "Words can be weaponized and cause physical harm and the escalation from hate speech to violence has played a significant role in the most horrific and tragic crimes of the modern age, from the antisemitism driving the Holocaust, to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda."

"In response to this growing threat, three years ago, I launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech. This provides a framework for our support to member states to counter this scourge while respecting freedom of expression and opinion, in collaboration with civil society, the media, technology companies and social media platforms," he said, warning that hate speech is a danger to everyone and fighting it is a job for everyone.

"This first International Day to Counter Hate Speech is a call to action. Let us recommit to doing everything in our power to prevent and end hate speech by promoting respect for diversity and inclusivity," he added.

In July 2021, the UNGA highlighted concerns over "the exponential spread and proliferation of hate speech" around the world and adopted a resolution on "promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech."

The resolution recognizes the need to counter discrimination, xenophobia and hate speech and calls on all relevant actors, including states, to increase their efforts to address this phenomenon, in line with international human rights law.

The resolution proclaimed on Saturday as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech.