Hate speech on Facebook poses ‘acute challenges to human dignity’: UN expert

An independent UN human rights expert called on Wednesday for Facebook’s Oversight Board to give greater consideration to the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities before making decisions over controversial content, particularly involving hate speech.

“Minorities are the most likely target of online hate speech, and we know that online hate speech against minorities often leads to severe real-world harm, and may even lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide”, said Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, welcoming the recent news that Facebook’s Oversight Board has accepted its first six cases appealing against decisions to remove content.

“Hate speech online is one of today’s most acute challenges to human dignity and life”, he added.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg compared the Oversight Board to the social media platform’s own Supreme Court, as an independent body that reviews Facebook moderation decisions.

Facebook’s Community Standards should be brought into line with the understanding of “hate speech” in the recent UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, according to Mr. de Varennes, who viewed the platform’s omission to protect linguistic minorities as troubling and contrary to international human rights law.

He directed the Board’s attention to Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN General Assembly’s 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, as well as other legal rulings on the rights of minorities.