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UN rights expert urges countries to combat online hate speech

A UN independent expert on Monday urged countries to combat hate speech on the Internet [video], while simultaneously protecting freedom of speech. Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mutuma Ruteere told the General Assembly that an increase of hate websites inciting racial violence necessitates action. Ruteere called on governments, international bodies, private and public sector, and local communities to cooperate in developing a comprehensive approach to combating Internet hate speech [UN News Centre report]. Ruteere stressed that the comprehensive approach needed to incorporate a firm legal framework that does not infringe on free speech. Ruteree stated that:

Any restrictions, control and censorship of the content disseminated via the Internet should be done on a clearly defined legal basis and in a manner that is necessary, proportionate and compatible with States' international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Ruteere urged states to educate their citizens about the problem with Internet hate speech and to promote tolerance.

Internet restrictions have been subject to international controversy. Last week a controversial Russian Internet regulation law which gives the Russian government the ability to completely block access to certain websites went into effect [JURIST report]. The bill's stated purpose is to block access to child pornography and the encouragement of drug use or suicide. In July the UN Human Rights Council [official website] passed its first-ever resolution [JURIST report] to protect the free speech of individuals online. The resolution was approved by all 47 members of the council, including China and Cuba, who have been criticized for limiting Internet freedom. The resolution was written to guarantee Internet freedom, including the free flow of information and freedom of expression.

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