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The Impact of Hate Speech on Social Media

Muawad Mustafa Rashid

Introduction:

Hate speech is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation”.

Around the world, we are seeing a disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism, and intolerance – including rising anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, and persecution of Christians.

Social media and other forms of communication are being exploited as platforms for bigotry. Neo-Nazi and white supremacy movements are on the march. Public discourse is being weaponized for political gain with incendiary rhetoric that stigmatizes and dehumanizes minorities, migrants, refugees, women, and any so-called “other”.

This is not an isolated phenomenon or the loud voices of a few people on the fringe of society. Hate is moving into the mainstream – in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike. And with each broken norm, the pillars of our common humanity are weakened. Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability, and peace.

Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence, which is prohibited under international law.

The United Nations has a long history of mobilizing the world against hatred of all kinds through wide-ranging action to defend human rights and advance the rule of law. Indeed, the very identity and establishment of the Organization are rooted in the nightmare that ensues when virulent hatred is left unopposed for too long.

There is no international legal definition of hate speech, and the characterization of what is ‘hateful’ is controversial and disputed. In the context of this document, the term hate speech is understood as any kind of communication in speech, writing, or behavior, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language concerning a person or a group based on who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender or another identity factor.

As more and more communication takes place in digital form, public conversations are moving online — in groups and broadcasts, in text and video, and even with emojis. These discussions reflect the diversity of human experience: some are enlightening and informative, others are humorous and entertaining, and others still are political or religious. Some can also be hateful and ugly. Most responsible communications platforms and systems are now working hard to restrict this kind of hateful content.

There is no universally accepted answer for when something crosses the line. Although several countries have laws against hate speech, their definitions of it vary significantly.

Sudanese Independent Centre for Social Studies and Consultations Takes the Lead by Launching the First Workshop on the Issue

The Sudanese Independent Centre for Social Studies and Consultations led by Dr. Yassir Al-Obeid has organized last week a workshop titled (Hate Speech and Its Impact on the Social fabric).

The workshop was attended by distinguished experts including the Sudanese media icon, Prof. Ali Mohammed Shummo who was one of the first generations that led the media in Sudan, Dr. Nasr Addeen Khalid Ahmed Mohammed, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Information, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mufti, Maj. Gen. Dr. Hassan Al-Tijani Ahmed, Prof. Al-Sammani Hannon, Ambassador  Dr. Ali Yusuf, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mufti, Dr. Fatima Omer Al-Aqib, Dr. Reem Musa, Dr. Abdul Magid Abdul Rahim, and Consultant Eng. Omer Al-Bakri Abu Haraz.

Member of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Dr. Salma Abdul Jabar,  addressed the opening session expressing her full support for the recommendations which will come out of the workshop.

Four papers were presented. The first was under the title (The Impact of media on the hate Speech) by Dr.   Shummo. The second was presented by Dr. Ahmed Al-Mufti under the title (The Role of Public Awareness in the Fight against Hate Speech). The third was presented by Dr. Fatima Omer Al-Aqib on political practices and their Impact on Deepening Hate Speech). The fourth paper was presented by Dr. Consultant Omer Al-Bakri Abu Haraz (The societal Role in Confronting the Hate Speech).

Several Commentators interacted and enriched the sessions.

The workshop came out with enormous recommendations including, but not limited to:

  • The necessity of social awareness campaigns.
  • Inserting the negative aspects of hate speech in the educational syllabuses.
  • Adapting peace culture.
  • There should be a clear national vision.
  • There should be a code of ethics.
  • Round table discussions should be adopted by the government on the issue.
  • Adapting the transitional justice
  • Strict legislation should be set to downsize the spread of hate speech.
  • Civil society organizations should work out a joint plan in the fight against hate speech.
  • Applying social justice.
  • Upgrading the dialogue culture.
  • Enforcing the local governance to contain hate speech.
  • Confidence building and Balanced development could help in eliminating the phenomenon.
  • Rural development
  • Encouraging the establishment of more cooperatives might lead to reducing hate speech.
  • Proving support to the related civil society organizations.
  • Encouraging the heritage, art, and culture tournaments.

Let us hope that the workshop represents the first step in the endeavors to stop the escalation of the hate speech phenomenon.

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