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FIBGAR / Articles  / Promoting respect: the importance of combating hate speech

Promoting respect: the importance of combating hate speech

Hate speech, one of the most insidious issues of our time, has found a way to nurture, grow and take root: social networks. In the digital age, negative voices are amplified and enjoy an anonymity never seen before, fostering media literacy among society and especially among young people.

On June 18, we celebrate the International Day to Counter Hate Speech, understood as offensive speech directed at a group or individual based on a number of inherent characteristics, such as race, religion or gender. Combating these threats is crucial as they have profound repercussions on our society.

As stated by the United Nations, hatred has become one of the most widely used methods of spreading divisive rhetoric and ideologies on a global scale and endangers peace and development by laying the groundwork for conflict and tensions and large-scale human rights violations. Furthermore, UN Secretary-General António Guterres adds that it is an indicator of discrimination, abuse, violence, conflict and even crimes against humanity.

We are experiencing an alarming rise in xenophobia, racism, intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism and hatred of Muslims in all parts of the world, where hate speech finds a place to grow and further increase these trends. Moreover, it not only affects the direct victims, but perpetuates stereotypes and social divisions that can lead to radicalization and violence, creating an environment of fear and insecurity.

Against this backdrop, the UN presented on June 18, 2019 the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action to Combat Hate Speech. This document represents a roadmap of how the United Nations can assist and complement states to curb this problem, while respecting freedom of opinion and expression. In addition, in 2021 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution due to the spread and proliferation of hate speech to “promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance to counter it” and June 18 was established as the International Day to Counter Hate Speech.

Given that hate has been amplified by social networks, it is necessary to implement effective strategies that have an impact on the education and awareness of the population, especially the youngest, since they are the ones who most inhabit these new digital platforms and use them as a source of daily information. According to the Spanish Observatory of Racism and Xenophobia (OBERAXE), in its bimonthly Hate Speech Monitoring Bulletin between March 1 and April 30, they reported a total of 651 contents with racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma or Islamophobic motivation that can be considered as a crime, administrative infraction or in breach of the platforms’ rules of conduct. This is why programs that promote media and digital literacy are necessary for young people to identify and reject harmful content.

In addition, social media platforms also have the power and responsibility to act against hateful content, activism and counteracting fake news or discriminatory content. For this reason, it is crucial to design initiatives that encourage the good use of these tools to promote a discourse of peace and respect that takes hold in the conscience of the population.

From FIBGAR, we are firmly committed to the fight against hate speech, so we developed the DEC project, where young people were trained in the essential digital skills for online activism and the dangers hidden in new technologies. Likewise, through the Memorízate project, we shared educational content on social networks related to Spanish and European democratic memory, in order to counteract misinformation on the subject and fight against extremist tendencies.

Combating hate speech requires a collective effort, thus, as Antonio Guterres states “Hate is dangerous for everyone, so combating it must also be a task for everyone”.

Carmen Coleto, FIBGAR Project Manager.

Madrid, June 18, 2024