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Reaction to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism – Human Rights Council – 26th session

27 June 2014

Human Rights Council, 26th session, 10 – 27 June 2014
Statement given by Glenn Payot, Geneva Representative, MRG

Thank you Mister President,

Mister Special Rapporteur,

Minority Rights Group (MRG) welcomes your report on the dissemination of racist and xenophobic discourse through the Internet and social media. Hatred towards marginalized communities takes a variety of forms and in many countries is a daily reality, not an isolated event. Social media and the Internet became an important platform for hate speech. Not only extremist groups, but also ordinary citizens can express racial and xenophobic hatred, being protected by anonymity and a climate of impunity.

MRG would like to highlight two points.

Firstly, online hate speech does not occur in a vacuum. It is encouraged not only by the absence of appropriate legislation and by the prevailing impunity on the Internet, but also by the social, economic and political contexts. As recent surveys in several European countries suggest, following the financial crisis, there appears to be an increasing acceptance of discriminatory language against minorities, especially towards Roma and migrant populations. This is why tackling the root causes of online hate speech requires the implementation of a holistic strategy that reflects the social as well as legal dimensions of hate speech, in particular the vulnerability that enables and reinforces denigration of marginalized groups.

Secondly, your report rightly stresses the ambivalence of these media. While social media and online platforms have expanded the opportunities for vilification and incitement, these same tools can also be used to counter hate speech and improve representations of minorities and marginalized groups. Indeed, the Internet can be a space where people can connect across traditional boundaries, get together and work to combat hate speech and discrimination in innovative ways. In Lebanon for instance, some online users have responded to sectarian hate speech on social media by organizing themselves into informal ‘anti-confessional police’, reporting on abuses online. In Burma, to respond to the increase of hate speech against Rohingya Muslims, blogger and rights advocate Nay Phone Latt launched the ‘flower campaign’, which spreads through facebook and other media the symbol of a person holding a flower in his or her mouth, to raise awareness about the dangers of hate speech.

To conclude, MRG would like to encourage the Special Rapporteur to continue this important dialogue with states, regulators, Internet companies, NGOs and affected communities, to promote an Internet free from hate.

I thank you.