UNESCO has just launched a study on Countering Online Hate Speech I have been working on in the past few months (in collaboration with Danit Gal, Thiago Alves, and Gabriela Martinez) which offers a global overview of the dynamics characterizing hate speech online and some of the measures that have been adopted to counteract and mitigate it. While the study provides a comprehensive analysis of the international, regional and national normative frameworks developed to address hate speech online, and their repercussions for freedom of expression, it places particular emphasis on social and non-regulatory mechanisms that can help to counter the production, dissemination and impact of hateful messages online.
Four 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 are addressed in the study. It analyses, first, the definition of the hate speech; second, the jurisdiction of the national governments and the role of transnational companies; third, the character of hate speech online and its relation to offline speech and action; and fourth, it identifies a variety of methods that have been used to address specific and contextual problems.
The study focuses on four types of initiatives that have been launched to counteract 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. Building on these cases the study provided for a set of recommendations that can be adopted by a variety of stakeholders to develop practical and tailored responses.
The study is part of a broader initiative launched by UNESCO to deepen the understanding of key Internet-related issues related to access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, privacy, and the ethical dimensions of the Information Society. Part of this effort was also an earlier study authored by Bill Dutton and Victoria Nash, among others, on “Freedom of Connection. Freedom of Expression”.