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States must step up efforts to counter racism on the Internet and social media – UN expert

GENEVA (26 June 2014) - The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere, on Thursday highlighted the issue of racism on the Internet and social media, while warning that the rise of extremist political parties and groups poses a threat to democracy and human rights.

“The Internet serves as a formidable vehicle for the exercise of free speech, but it also provides a powerful platform for the rapid dissemination of racist ideas, ideologies and incitement to hatred,” the Special Rapporteur emphasized as he presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/26/49).

“A comprehensive, multi-stakeholder approach is necessary to effectively counter expressions of racism on the Internet and social media,” Mr Ruteere stressed.

He urged States to observe their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and to regulate the Internet and social media responsibly. However, the Special Rapporteur cautioned that States must also bear in mind the protection of other fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

“Civil society initiatives are also essential in the fight against racism and hate speech on the Internet and social media,” Mr Ruteere noted. Civil society actors frequently collaborate to defend the rights of victims of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

The Special Rapporteur called on Internet service providers and social media platforms to “issue clear and transparent policies regarding racism, xenophobia, and other hate speech and to include them in their terms of service.”

Considering the number of stakeholders involved in issues relating to the Internet, social media, and racism, Mr Ruteere emphasized the importance of establishing clear responsibilities and roles. “Dialogue and collaboration among these actors must be strengthened and institutionalized,” he said.

“I encourage continuing the sharing of good practices, and am hopeful that the Internet and social media networks will be further employed as a tool for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. States, civil society and individuals should seize the opportunities that these new technologies provide and fight the dissemination of hatred,” he advised. 

Mr Ruteere also submitted a report pursuant to General Assembly resolution 68/150, (A/HRC/26/50) which reviews the latest developments in the human rights and democratic challenges posed by neo-Nazis, skinhead groups and similar extremist political movements.

The report identifies the main areas of concern where consistent vigilance against racist and xenophobic crimes is required. It calls for additional efforts to combat the rise in extremist groups, and highlights good practices developed by States and other stakeholders. Extremists continue to blame vulnerable groups for society’s problems and incite intolerance and violence against them, the Special Rapporteur warned. Stakeholders need to ensure better protection for victims and prevents future crimes.

“Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations are the first step in the fight against impunity.” Mr Ruteere stated.

“Political leaders and democratic parties must condemn messages based on racial superiority. I call on them to promote diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect,” he added.

ENDS

See reports at:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/ReportsHRC.aspx

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/IndexSRRacism.aspx

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