Social networks must take more responsibility to curb hate speech on the internet

A group of UN human rights experts* said on Friday that the recent change in leadership at Twitter led to a sharp increase in the use of racist expressions. “Nigger” -negro, in Spanish-, a pejorative and extremely offensive term for a black person.

“This situation demonstrates the urgent need for companies dedicated to social networks assume a higher level of responsibility in the face of hate speech directed at people of African descent”, emphasized the specialists.

“In the early days of the Twitter acquisition, the Network Contagion Research Institute from Rutgers University (American) highlighted that the use of the hateful and racist word “Nigger” increased almost 500% in a twelve-hour period compared to previous averages.

Following the recent acquisition of Twitter, there has been a sharp increase in hate speech on the social network.

an answer is urgent

The specialists qualified that, despite the warning of Twitter that it was a trolling campaign and that there is no place for hatred in the company, this display of animosity against people of African descent is deeply worrying and deserves an urgent response based on the defense of human rights.

“We are calling Elon Musk (Twitter), Mark Zuckerberg (Meta), Sundar Pichai (Google), Tim Cook (Apple) and the CEOs of other social media platforms to center their business model on human rights, racial justice, accountability, transparency, corporate social responsibility and ethics”, they summoned.

The experts reminded them “that corporate responsibility for racial justice and human rights is a fundamental social responsibility. respect human rights It benefits these companies and their shareholders in the long run.”

Regarding how to implement their proposal, they indicated that the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discriminationthe International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsand the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights “They offer a clear path on how to do it.”

Hate speech, whether online or offline, poses a threat to democracy and human rights.

The commitment of companies is not reflected in the behaviors we see on the web

Despite the fact that many companies assert that they do not allow incitement to hate, the specialists pointed out that there is a wide gap between the commitments of these companies with their guidelines and their subsequent compliance on social networks.

“This is especially evident in the approval of inflammatory advertisements, electoral misinformation in Facebook and content that talks about conspiracy theories. An investigation of Global Witness Y SumOfUs recently revealed how Meta is unable to block certain ads.

Similarly, they recognized that, in response to numerous complaints, Meta took an important step with the creation in 2020 of a supervisory council. However, they indicated that its effectiveness can only be appreciated in the long term and which will require a continuous commitment at the highest level for the review and modification of its mechanisms to combat incitement to racial hatred online.

An agreement must be reached so that digital companies pay taxes that help raise funds necessary for sustainable development.

Unsplash/Priscilla du Preez

Arbitrariness and economic interests

“There is a risk that arbitrariness and economic interests get in the way of the control and regulation of social media platforms,” they warned.

Lastly, they stressed that content moderation can only address “a part of what happens in cyberspace”, but that “it does not take into account the intended and unintended effects (it causes) in society”.

“If addressed, they can be determining factors in building a positive future both online and offline. The future of current and future generations is at stake, as well as social cohesion between communities,” they warned.

They added that “social media plays a critical role in preventing further fissures from developing so that racial justice and human rights can be championed to build less racist, less divisive, more tolerant, just and equitable societies.”

*Catherine Namakula (Chair), Barbara Reynolds (Vice Chair), Miriam Ekiudoko and Sushil Raj Expert Working Group on People of African Descent; Pichamon Yeophantong (Chair), Damilola Olawuyi (Vice-Chair), Fernanda Hopenhaym, Elżbieta Karska, and Robert McCorquodale working group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Ravindran Daniel (Chairperson-Rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Sorcha MacLeod, Chris Kwaja, Carlos Salazar Couto working group on the use of mercenaries; Ashwini KP, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by people with albinism; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Isha Dyfan, independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; Alioune Tine, independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, including its causes and consequences; Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Paula Gaviria Betancur, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change.

*The special rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that address specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. . Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and provide their services in an individual capacity.

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Social networks must take more responsibility to curb hate speech on the internet