UN Report calls for action on hate speech

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye urged governments and companies to protect vulnerable groups and targets of hate speech while respecting freedom of expression and opinion. Saying ‘companies’ failure to recognise their power and impact, and to value shareholders over public interest, must end immediately’, noting that the new Report of the Special Rapporteur to the General Assembly on online hate speech includes tools for change. The report also specifically states that control of hate speech should not be used by governments as ‘a tool to punish and restrict speech that is entirely legitimate and even necessary in rights-respecting societies’. It details recommendations for governments, based on two premises: that ‘offline human rights protections must also apply to online speech, and that governments should not demand that intermediaries take actions that states are barred from taking by international human rights laws. The report recommends that companies ‘Evaluate how their products and services impact the human rights of their users and the public …’, among other specific steps to address hate speech.