Free Speech at Risk: UN Pushes for Global “Hate Speech” Eradication

By Cindy Harper –

In a statement issued on the occasion of the “International Day for Countering Hate Speech,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the global eradication of so-called “hate speech,” which he described as inherently toxic and entirely intolerable.

The issue of censoring “hate speech” stirs significant controversy, primarily due to the nebulous and subjective nature of its definition. At the heart of the debate is a profound concern: whoever defines what constitutes hate speech essentially holds the power to determine the limits of free expression.

This power, wielded without stringent checks and balances, leads to excessive censorship and suppression of dissenting voices, which is antithetical to the principles of a democratic society.

Guterres highlighted the historic and ongoing damage caused by hate speech, citing devastating examples such as Nazi Germany, Rwanda, and Bosnia to suggest that speech leads to violence and even crimes against humanity.

“Hate speech is a marker of discrimination, abuse, violence, conflict, and even crimes against humanity. We have time and again seen this play out from Nazi Germany to Rwanda, Bosnia and beyond. There is no acceptable level of hate speech; we must all work to eradicate it completely,” Guterres said.

Guterres also noted what he suggested are the worrying rise of antisemitic and anti-Muslim sentiments, which are being propagated both online and by prominent figures.

Guterres argued that countries are legally bound by international law to combat incitement to hatred while simultaneously fostering diversity and mutual respect. He urged nations to uphold these legal commitments and to take action that both prevents hate speech and safeguards free expression.

The UN General Assembly marked June 18 as the “International Day for Countering Hate Speech” in 2021.

Guterres has long promoted online censorship, complaining about the issue of online “misinformation” several times, describing it as “grave” and suggesting the creation of an international code to tackle it.

His strategy involves a partnership among governments, tech giants, and civil society to curb the spread of “false” information on social media, despite risks to free speech.

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