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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN Human Rights Chief: Hate speech has no place in our world

16 June 2023

GENEVA (16 June 2023) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has called on everyone to work together to build a more respectful and civil world, and for effective action to end hate speech, ahead of the International Day for Countering Hate Speech on 18 June.

“We know that the spread of hate is used by those who want to sow divisions, to scapegoat and to distract from real issues. Social media is a remarkably fertile ground for hate speech, providing it with both unprecedented reach and speed. And hate breeds bigotry, discrimination and incitement to violence,” said Türk.

“What must be done? There is no silver bullet, no switch to flip that will rid our world of hate, online or offline. But with targeted and well-resourced measures, we can succeed in limiting its spread, isolating and holding accountable hate-mongerers, and building greater respect.”

Globally, the spread of hate speech-related laws being misused against journalists and human rights defenders is almost as viral as the spread of hate speech itself, the UN Human Rights Chief said. Broad laws – that license States to censor speech they find uncomfortable and to threaten or detain those who question Government policy or criticize officials – violate rights and endanger essential public debate.

Rather than criminalizing protected speech, we need States and companies to take urgent steps to address incitement to hatred and violence, Türk said.

The High Commissioner called for multifaceted and well-resourced efforts, including:

  • Ratcheting up investment in efforts to combat hate speech in languages other than English, and detecting and pivoting greater attention and investment to fragile contexts, or where early warning signs demand;
  • Listening to those most affected by hate speech, and providing better channels for them to raise concerns and get prompt action;
  • Holding companies responsible for what they are – and are not – doing to respect human rights, including by requiring human rights due diligence with regard to their operations and increasing transparency around hate speech policies and practices;
  • Empowering expanded research into how to effectively combat hate speech through greater transparency, including by open or affordable API access;
  • Providing support to those whose mental and physical health are seriously affected by incitement to hatred and violence, particularly the well-documented harms caused to women and girls by gender-based hate;
  • Investing in digital and media literacy programmes, human rights education, and supporting mechanisms to provide independent fact-checking with the participation of journalists and civil society.

“More also needs to be done to address mega-spreaders – those officials and influencers whose voices have profound impact and whose examples inspire thousands of others,” Türk said. “We must build networks and amplify voices that can cut through the hate.”

The UN Human Rights Office’s “Faith for Rights” framework is one such effort. It engages religious leaders in an effort to respond to hatred and incitement of violence, as it did for example in Cyprus where calls for religious freedom, coexistence and peace followed cases of vandalism at places of worship.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

Ravina Shamdasani - +41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or
Liz Throssell +41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or
Jeremy Laurence + +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]

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