UNESCO Launches Publication on Countering Hate Speech Online


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has released a new publication titled “Countering Hate Speech Online” as part of its ongoing series on Internet Freedom. The Publication was presented during the “Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism” conference held on June 16 and 17, 2015 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

The publication gives a global overview of the dynamics that characterize hate speech online and some of the measures that have been adopted to counteract and mitigate it, highlighting good practices that have emerged at the local and global levels. It also highlights the social and non-regulatory mechanisms that can help to counter the production, dissemination and impact of hateful messages online.

The study pays close attention to main areas of tension arising between the international standards aimed to regulate freedom of expression and the obligations of states and societies to counter or limit hate speech. It analyses the definition of the hate speech; the jurisdiction of the national governments and the role of transnational companies; the character of hate speech online and its relation to offline speech and action; and identifies a variety of methods that have been used to resolve specific and contextual problems.

The study also brings to light and accentuates the four measures that have been previously employed to impede the emergence and/or the spreading of hateful messages:

i) Research efforts to monitor how hate speech online emerges and spreads, developing early warning systems and methods to distinguish among different typologies of speech acts;

ii) Coordinated actions by members of the civil society seeking to create national and international coalitions to address emergent threats connecting online hatred and violence offline;

iii) Initiatives to encourage social networking platforms and Internet Service Providers to play a more robust role in actively responding to hate speech online; and

iv) Media literacy campaigns and initiatives aimed at preparing users to interpret and react to hateful messages.

Using the aforementioned, the study provides a set of recommendations that can be adopted by various stakeholders and practitioners to develop practical and tailored responses.

The study is founded upon UNESCO’s fulfillment resolution 52 of its 37th General Conference in November 2013, as agreed by the Organization’s 195 Member States.

The resolution called for a comprehensive and consultative multi-stakeholder study, which is rooted in the mandate of UNESCO, on Internet-related issues of access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, privacy, and the ethical dimensions of the Information Society.