Impact and prevention

Why tackle hate speech?

The proliferation of hate speech, further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, represents an unprecedented challenge for our societies. Although hate speech has always existed, its ever growing impact fuelled by digital communication can be devastating not only for the specific individuals and groups that are targeted, but also for societies at large.

Hate speech is in itself a denial of the values of tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of the human rights norms and principles. As such, it may expose those targeted to discrimination, abuse including violence, but also social and economic exclusion. When left unchecked, expressions of hatred can even harm social cohesion, peace and development, as it lays the ground for conflicts and tensions, wide scale human rights violations, including atrocity crimes.

Addressing and countering hate speech is, therefore, a necessity and requires a holistic approach, mobilizing society as a whole. Whether as members of States, the private sector, the media and internet corporations, faith leaders, educators, actors of civil society, those affected by hate speech, youth, or simply as an individual, we all have the moral duty of speaking out firmly against instances of hate speech and a crucial role to play in countering this scourge.

Importantly, combating hate speech requires monitoring and analyzing it first to fully understand its dynamics. Indeed, since the spread of hate rethorics can serve as an early warning of violence - including atrocity crimes - limiting hate speech could contribute to mitigating its impact and the authors of hate speech could be held accountable, in a bid to end impunity. The challenge of monitoring and analyzing hate speech is, therefore, a priority for many UN entities, including UNESCO - the United Nations’ specialized agency for education, science and culture - which supports and undertakes research to better understand hate speech-related dynamics.


No one is born to hate: Addressing hate speech through education

Hate speech worldwide

“We all need to join hands to tackle this phenomenon.”

United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu