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UN expert denounces the propagation of hate speech through social media

27 February 2020

GENEVA (27 February 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on minorities issues accused the propagation of hate speech through social media of contributing directly to the rise of hate crimes against minorities and called for this “poisoning of minds” online to be acknowledged and confronted. 

“The last decade has seen minorities around the world facing new and growing threats, fuelled by hate and bigotry being spewed through social media platforms,” said Fernand de Varennes as the German town of Hanau recovers from a gunman’s attack in which nine people were killed out of apparent hatred of minorities.

“This has contributed to the rise of violent extremist groups and to a dramatic increase in many countries of hate crimes targeting religious, ethnic and other minorities, including migrants,” he noted.

The UN expert decried the “banalization of bigotry,” the increasing “otherization and dehumanization of minorities through social media” and the use of social networks to propagate hate speech and even live stream hate crimes, such as the recent attacks targeting centres of worship of minorities in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, India and the United States.

“The more hate speech is widespread, the more it becomes part of the mainstream and creates a permissive and toxic environment where calls for violence against the ‘hated’ group, usually a minority, become normalized. This propagation of hate against minorities online must be stopped,” he stressed.

UN Secretary-General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres announced last year the creation of a UN Strategy and Plan of Action to tackle hate speech.

Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the 
UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Marina Narvaez (+41-229179286 / [email protected] )

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