Hate speech is a direct assault on our core values of tolerance, inclusion and respect for human rights and human dignity. It sets groups against each other, contributes to violence and conflict, and undermines all our efforts for peace, stability and sustainable development. As such, addressing it is a priority for the entire United Nations system.
Around the world, we see a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred. In some parts of the world, Christian communities are also under attack. While hate speech has always existed, the new element today is digital communications and specifically, social media platforms. They are making hate speech more virulent than ever, amplifying it and enabling it to move farther and faster.
Hate-filled content is reaching new audiences at lightning speed and has been linked with violence and killings from Sri Lanka to New Zealand and the United States. It is also used by extremist groups to recruit and radicalize people online.
Political leaders in some countries are adopting the slogans and ideas of these groups, demonizing the vulnerable and weakening the standards of decency in public discourse that have served us for decades.
In the face of this, we all – the United Nations, governments, the private sector, academia, civil society, the international community as a whole – need to step up. That is why I asked my Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to prepare the Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech we are launching today in cooperation with a large number of UN entities.
This strategy aims to coordinate our efforts across the whole United Nations system, addressing the root causes of hate speech, and making our response more effective.
Many of our programmes to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are already tackling hate speech, by promoting gender equality and human rights, and addressing discrimination of all kinds. But we need to speed up, strengthen and expand the reach of these activities, focused around a defined strategy so that they are as coordinated and as effective as possible.
The strategy includes actions for offices both at headquarters and in the field, and at national and global level. I have asked United Nations agencies and offices to prepare their own plans, aligned with this Strategy and in coordination with my Special Envoy for the Prevention of Genocide.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
I would like to mention one aspect of this strategy that is particularly relevant to you.
All action aimed at addressing and confronting hate speech must be consistent with fundamental human rights.
The United Nations supports freedom of expression and opinion everywhere.
Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, which is prohibited under international law.
We need to treat hate speech as we treat every malicious act: by condemning it, refusing to amplify it, countering it with the truth, and encouraging the perpetrators to change their behaviour.
This is clearly not something we can do alone.
We are counting on the support of governments, civil society, the private sector and in particular, you, the members of the media.
Because tackling the poison of hate speech is everybody’s responsibility.