HRC46: Hate speech, social media and minorities

HRC46: Hate speech, social media and minorities - Digital


ARTICLE 19’s full statement for the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues at the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council.

ARTICLE 19 thanks the Special Rapporteur for his timely report. We share his concerns over the rise of online hate speech targeting individuals and groups of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. We appreciate that the Special Rapporteur rightly recognises that “the starting point for addressing the scourge of hate speech on social media must be full respect of freedom of expression”. We also welcome the attention brought to the impact of the business models and algorithms of major social media platforms as a key factor driving online hate speech against minorities.

ARTICLE 19 has been closely following the prevalence of online hate speech against Afro-Brazilian religious minorities, including by public officials. The number of online attacks faced by this group has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also monitored vast online hate speech against Central American migrants in their journey to cross Mexico to arrive to the US who are portrayed, even by the authorities who try to justify the militarization of the country, as an invasion, a waste of public resources, a public health hazard and criminals. Women migrants in particular experience an over sexualization in online hate speech.  It is particularly concerning the responses they receive when members of these groups speak against discrimination and inequality, challenge existing power structures and object against violations of their rights.

ARTICLE 19 remains deeply concerned that it is often politicians and public officials in high-ranking positions who make statements that might promote discrimination or undermine equality. We remind politicians and other leadership figures in society to consider the impact of their speech on groups at risk. Instead, they should take advantage of their positions to promote intercultural understanding, including by contesting, where appropriate, discriminatory statements or behaviour.

We also underline the importance of positive obligations of States to create an enabling environment for the right to freedom of expression for all, in particular ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. We stress that States must ensure that minority groups have equitable access to media resources and digital communication technologies. States should adopt public policy measures that promote minorities’ production and circulation of their own content, as well as the reception of content produced by others, as well as public support – both financial and in other forms – to promote the provision of reliable, pluralist and timely information for and about minorities.

We urge all States at this Council to fully protect the rights to freedom of expression and equality and non-discrimination as mutually reinforcing rights and to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.