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Statements and speeches Special Procedures

Hate speech: UN experts make joint call for action by states and social media firms

23 September 2019

GENEVA (23 September 2019) – Thirty independent UN experts* have joined together to publish an open letter calling on States and social media firms to take action to curb the spread of hate speech.

“We are alarmed by the recent increase in hateful messages and concerned about public figures dehumanising migrants, and other minority groups,” the experts said in their letter.

The experts gave a warning that generalising and describing entire groups of people as dangerous or inferior was not new to human history and had clearly led to catastrophic tragedies in the past.

“We urge States to promote and adopt policies of tolerance. States should actively work towards policies that guarantee the rights to equality and non-discrimination and freedom of expression, as well as the right to live a life free of violence, through the promotion of tolerance, diversity and pluralistic views.

“Traditional and social media companies should exercise due diligence to ensure that they do not provide platforms for hate speech and for incitement to hatred and violence.”

The experts said they had been receiving an increasing number of reports about hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, and felt it was time to speak out.

“Hate speech, both online and offline, has exacerbated societal and racial tensions, inciting attacks with deadly consequences around the world,” they said.

“Hate speech has become mainstream in all different political systems and is threatening democratic values, social stability and peace. Hate-fuelled ideas and advocacy coarsen public discourse and weaken the social fabric of countries.”

They urged officials to refrain from spreading fear among the public against migrants or those seen as “other” for their own political gain.

On the other hand, they also showed concern about the abuse of hate speech as a term to undermine legitimate dissent, and they stressed the importance of promoting free expression.


(*) The UN experts: Mr. Felipe Gonzàlez Morales (Chile), Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. David Kaye (United States of America), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms E. Tendayi Achiume (Zambia), Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Fernand de Varennes (Canada), Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica), Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Ms Dubravka Simonovic (Croatia), Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy), Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana (Uganda), Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor (Nigeria), Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. Fabian Salvioli (Argentina), Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Mr. Philip Alston (Australia), Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Ms Agnes Callamard (France), the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms Fionnuala NÍ Aoláin (Ireland),Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Ms Rhona Smith (UK), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Mr. Javaid Rehman (Pakistan), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Mr. Alioune Tine (Senegal), Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali; Ms Yanghee Lee (South Korea), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Mr. Michael Lynk (Canada), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; Mr. Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga (Tanzania), Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups 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.

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