A “dramatic” rise in the number of websites and social media platforms hosting racist and gay hate content is enabling neo-Nazis and other hate groups to amplify their messages, an expert from the United Nations has warned.
Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s special rapporteur for racism, said there had been a 600 per cent increase in the number of white supremacists espousing their views on Twitter since 2012.
She said that rise in social media activity, along with the proliferation of more than 14,000 far-right websites online in the last two decades, had contributed to a “growing climate of intolerance”.
“At the core of neo-Nazism ideologies lies a hatred of Jews, as well as many other racial, ethnic, and religious groups,” she said.
“These ideologies also vilify lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and persons with disabilities, and in some cases women.”
She said that climate was having “tangible, horrific impacts on human lives,” thrown into the spotlight last month after a gunman shot dead 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history.
Achiume said the largely unregulated, decentralised, cheap and anonymous nature of the Internet had allowed extremist groups to form networks across borders and amplify their hate-filled messages.
Social media giants have faced criticism for not doing enough to curb hate speech on their platforms.
According to its policies, Facebook defines hate speech as “a direct attack on people based on … protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”
The company states that “violent or dehumanising speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation” are banned.
And Twitter’s policy states their “[commitment] to combating abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance, particularly abuse that seeks to silence the voices of those who have been historically marginalised.”
‘Tech companies must do more’
Achiume called on technology companies to do more to ensure their platforms did not harbour extremist groups or allow the spread of “extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial” material.
“Action is required by more states to implement anti-hate speech laws and ensure equality and non-discrimination including online, in accordance with international human rights law,” she said.
“Criminal and civil penalties alone will not put an end to racial and xenophobic intolerance.
“A state’s first step must be explicit recognition that the proliferation of nationalist populist mobilisations and neo-Nazi groups threaten racial equality.”
During the same-sex marriage postal survey last year, anti-gay stickers and posters attributed to Neo-Nazi groups appeared in cities and on university campuses across the country.
In September, an inclusive Brisbane church was targeted following this year’s Brisbane Pride Festival march.
That same month, vile homophobic posters were also spotted in Townsville.