2020 Regional Forums on “Hate Speech, Social Media and Minorities”

Neo-Nazi and white supremacy movements are on the march. Public discourse is being weaponized for political gain with incendiary rhetoric that stigmatizes and dehumanizes minorities, migrants, refugees, women and any so called “other”.

UN Secretary-General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech

Across the world today, discriminatory practices and hateful messages serve to stigmatize and vilify those perceived to be the “other”, the “foreigner” or the “one who does not belong”. Most of those targeted by these messages are minorities – overwhelmingly so. Among the key findings of the most recent 2018 Hate Crime Data covering European and other countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe indicate that more than 76% of hate crimes involve Jewish, Muslim, and other ethnic and religious minorities, with 4405 out of 5735 reported incidents.

Such expressions of hate and discrimination increasingly dominate political agendas and discourses, and are mainstreamed through public life, creating a climate of fear amongst individuals and communities. They can at times also create a climate of rejection, exclusion and even intolerance, threatening societal values and undermining the respect of human dignity and the protection of human rights. This type of speech, often called hate speech, in most cases target persons belonging to minorities, who are portrayed as a threat to national unity, societal harmony, national security and public order, or who are subjected to discrimination because of their distinct ethno-cultural identities, religions or languages.

Digital technologies and social media platform owners may play a role in contributing to hate speech and undermining human rights. Indeed, in recent times, there have been numerous and flagrant examples of the “rallying power” of social media platforms being abused to spread hatred, unfounded and stigmatizing rumours, fostering a climate of insecurity and animosity, and in the most extreme cases, leading to violent campaigns against members of minorities. Such unregulated online expressions of hate can result in or increase the chances of human rights violations taking place offline against some of the most vulnerable segments of society.

Two regional forums were convened on the theme of “hate speech, social media and minorities.” The first regional forum covered the European region and took place on 21-22 September. The second regional forum covered the Asia-Pacific region and took place on 19-20 October. Both forums were held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details about the regional forums can be found below.