Tips for countering hate speech
In its Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, the United Nations (UN) notes that hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability, and peace. According to the report, hate speech is any speech, writing, or behavior criticising or utilising derogatory or biased terms regarding an individual or a group based on who they are. Hate speech is the source of dire consequences. For instance, in Ethiopia, hate speech offline and online has fueled violent extremism in the Tigray and other regions and has been condemned by the United Nations. In 2022, social media users in Kenya experienced hate speech online affecting the integrity of elections in that regard.
The observance of the International Day for Countering Hate Speech occurs when social media and digital platforms are increasingly weaponised for political advantage, and the transmission of divisive online narratives is increasing in an era of readily distributed misinformation. This day is commemorated on 18 June annually and was declared when the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/75/309 of 21 July 2021. The Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech was launched by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 18 June 2019.
As citizens in African countries such as Togo, Congo, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Somaliland, Eswatini, Liberia, and Sierra Leone prepare for elections in 2023, it is important that citizens take responsibility over prevention of hate speech in the following ways:
- Use peaceful and courteous language
- Respect others online by being tolerant of divergent views, diverse cultures and contexts.
- Report online posts or remarks that contain hate speech to social media platforms
- Fact-check articles online and offline to stop the spread of mis- and disinformation.
- Educate online communities to support diversity and respect online.
- Report gendered hate speech attacks on political actors.
Written by Bridgette Ndlovu