Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, A/HRC/26/49, 6 May 2014
III. Use of internet and social media for propagating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
B. Manifestations of racism, xenophobia, hate speech and other related forms of intolerance on the Internet and social media networks
17. One of the greatest drawbacks of the Internet, however, is the fact that it also provides a platform to racist and hateful movements. The authors Abraham H. Foxman and Christopher Wolf recently described the situation of how racism, xenophobia and hate manifest on the Internet:
Today there are powerful new tools for spreading lies, fomenting hatred, and encouraging violence. […] The openness and wide availability of the internet that we celebrate has sadly allowed it to become a powerful and virulent platform not just for anti-Semitism but for many forms of hatred that are directly linked to growing online incivility, to the marginalization and targeting of minorities, to the spread of falsehoods that threaten to mislead a generation of young people, to political polarization, and to real-world violence.
The authors accurately perceive the dangers and challenges posed by the Internet and social media:
Instead of being under the central control of a political party or group, the power of the Internet lies in its viral nature. Everyone can be a publisher, even the most vicious anti-Semite, racist, bigot, homophobe, sexist, or purveyor of hatred. The ease and rapidity with which websites, social media pages, video and audio downloads, and instant messages can be created and disseminated on-line make Internet propaganda almost impossible to track, control, and combat. Links, viral e-mails, and “re-tweets” enable lies to self-propagate with appalling speed.
D. Civil society initiatives to counter racism, xenophobia, discrimination and other related hate speech on the Internet and social media
62. The Umati initiative developed by the iHub innovation centre (www.ihub.co.ke) based in Nairobi aims at proposing a workable definition of hate speech and a contextualized methodology for its analysis; collecting and monitoring the occurrence of hate speech in Kenya; and promoting civic education and interaction both online and offline. Similarly, the It Gets Better project (www.itgetsbetter.org), started in 2010 in Los Angeles (United States of America), aims to provide emotional, psychological and legal support for LGBT youth victims of hate and discrimination. The project acts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, posting positive and inspiring messages to those suffering from gender-based discrimination. Many important public figures have participated in video messages posted by the project. In Europe, iCud (Internet: Creatively Unveiling Discrimination) (digitaldiscrimination.eu), the combined effort of five grassroots organizations in different European Union countries and the University of Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona (Spain), is a project designed to raise awareness and to explore innovative ways to combat discrimination online. The initiative, which is supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme of the European Union, is aimed at creating a framework for understanding hate speech and discrimination on the Internet, in addition to being an innovative model for combating discriminatory material.
63. The Special Rapporteur would also like to mention some mobile applications developed to combat racism, homophobia and hate speech. The “Kick It Out” app(www.kickitout.org), developed jointly by Make Positive and Sherry Design Studios, isdesigned to address racism in football matches. Endorsed by the Premier League and Football League in the United Kingdom, the app allows match-goers and supporters to report racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia in real time during the matches. The information collected is then forwarded to clubs and government bodies. Another application, “Everyday Racism”, was developed by the Australian organization AllTogether Now and is supported by the University of Melbourne and other academic institutions in Australia (alltogethernow.org.au). Designed to raise awareness of racism against Aboriginal peoples, the application challenges players to live a week in the life of an Aboriginal person in order to gain an understanding of the prejudice that Aboriginals face. In France, the “app’Licra” application (www.licra.org/fr/l’app-licra-1ère-application-antiraciste) allows individuals to take a picture of hate speech or racist graffiti attach its location and forward the information to the authorities, which can then remove it.
Link to full text of the report: Report-SRRacism-HRC-social media-2014-eng
- 2. Abraham H. Foxman and Christopher Wolf, Viral Hate: Containing its Spread on the Internet (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).↵