UN experts condemn the spread of racial hatred in social networks

In a joint statement, these experts* noted that within the first days of Twitter’s acquisition, Rutgers University’s Network Contagion Research Institute observed a 500% increase in the use of hateful and racist words beginning with the letter “N”. platform compared to the previous period.

Despite Twitter’s statements linking the abuse to a campaign by trolls who say there is “no place for hate” on the network, these experts found the hateful displays disturbing enough to merit an “immediate human rights response” from social media companies.

Noting that other social networking giants like Meta are equally concerned, the same observers lament the gap between companies’ commitments to combating hate speech and the effective implementation of those policies on sites. unblockable ads, the spread of election disinformation and conspiracy theories on Facebook.

Hate speech has increased since being hijacked by Elon Musk on Twitter

Arbitrariness and the lure of profit inhibit control of social media

However, experts consider it an “important step” for Meta to set up an oversight board in 2020, made up of experts in various fields, with the power to make independent decisions and make recommendations in response to numerous complaints. About Facebook and Instagram’s content policies.

But they note that the effectiveness of this advice can only be assessed in the long term and will require a sustained commitment at the highest level to examine and change the mechanisms by which social networks deal with online racial hatred.

According to them, there is a risk that “arbitrariness and profit will interfere with the mechanisms of monitoring and regulation of social networks”.

The UN experts also cited a recent open letter written by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk to Twitter CEO Elon Musk, stressing that “freedom of expression is not a free pass for harmful misinformation that causes damage in the real world.” .

Hate speech not only violates the rights of people of African descent, but also “creates great rifts in societies and is a source of various forms of instability within countries,” the statement said.

Online hate is a threat to democracy and social cohesion.

Online hate is a threat to democracy and social cohesion.

Distrust of marginalized communities

Complacency in inciting hatred against people of African descent or other marginalized groups, they argue, both encourages criminals and is a source of chronic race-related traumatic stress.

UN experts thus suggest the cumulative effect of racism on people’s mental and physical health, on the loss of confidence of these communities in social networks and the pursuit of justice, and are especially concerned about the fate of young people who spend a lot of money these days. part of their lives in cyberspace and their experiences on online platforms often shape their personal values, attitudes and actions.

The future of future generations and social cohesion are at stake

“At stake is the future of current and future generations, as well as social cohesion between communities. Social media has a huge role to play in building less racist, less conflicted, more tolerant, fair and just societies,” they conclude.

They call on Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet-Google’s Sundar Pichai, Apple’s Tim Cook, and other tech and social media figures to put human rights, racial justice, accountability, transparency, corporate social responsibility and ethics “at the center of their business models.” “.

“Corporate responsibility for racial justice and human rights is a fundamental social responsibility,” they say, and without adding, “it is in the long-term interests of these companies and their shareholders.”


Catherine Namakula (President), Barbara Reynolds (Vice President), Miriam Ekiudoko and Sushil RajExpert Working Group on People of African Descent; Pichamon Yeophantong (President), Damilola Olawuyi (Vice President), Fernanda Hoffenheim, Elżbieta Karska and Robert McCorquodaleWorking Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises; Ravindran Daniel (chairman-rapporteur), Jelena Aparac, Sorcha MacLeod, Chris Kwaja, Carlos Salazar CoutoWorking Group on the Use of Mercenaries; Ashwini KP, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Fionnuala Ní Aolain, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms during the fight against terrorism; Muluka-Anne Miti-DrummondIndependent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism ; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on modern forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; prof Vitit MuntarbhornSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Isha DyfanIndependent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia; Alioune TineIndependent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali; Reem AlsalemSpecial Rapporteur on violence against women, including its causes and consequences; Morris Tidball BinzSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Paula Gaviria BetancourtSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Ian FrySpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change.


Special rapporteurs and independent experts are part of procedures known as special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations human rights system, is the general name for independent mechanisms.

investigative and monitoring bodies that deal with country-specific situations or thematic issues in all regions of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN employees and are not paid for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve as individuals.

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