The Twitter world pushed back hard on a tweet posted by the United Nations that showed a picture of a grenade with the caption, “Words can be weapons. Hate speech online can lead to cruelty & violence in real life.”
Words can be weapons.
Hate speech online can lead to cruelty & violence in real life.
— United Nations (@UN) November 27, 2022
P.J. Media columnist Stacey Lennox tweeted, “No, they can’t. Just stop. You have member nations engaged in slavery & mass murder. How about you get some priorities?”
No they can’t. Just stop.
You have member nations engaged in slavery & mass murder. How about you get some priorities? https://t.co/lqbtIZy4w0
— Stacey – Restorationist (@ScotsFyre) November 28, 2022
Another Twitter user wrote that saying words can be weapons is an assault on freedom of expression, a cornerstone of free democracies.
To say words can be weapons is an assault on freedom of expression, a cornerstone of free democracies.
— Charter Sobieski (@vineland_ca) November 28, 2022
The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights preamble states that “human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want” and that freedom of speech is “the highest aspiration of the common people.”
However, another link on the U.N. site leads to an extensive explanation of “hate speech.”
According to the U.N., hate speech can be conveyed through any form of expression, including “images, cartoons, memes, objects, gestures, and symbols” and can be disseminated offline or online.
Hate speech, according to the U.N., is discriminatory and pejorative and calls out real or perceived “identity factors” of an individual or a group, including: “religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender,” and also characteristics such as “language, economic or social origin, disability, health status, or sexual orientation, among many others.”
The page then goes on to discuss “the growth of hateful content online,” which, when coupled “with the rise of easily shareable disinformation,” explains the “key” importance of monitoring online hate speech.”
Earlier this year, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) launched a new initiative called #ThinkBeforeSharing – Stop the spread of conspiracy theories. The initiative was created due to a “worrying rise in disinformation and conspiracy theories” caused by the COVID pandemic. The initiative states that conspiracy theories cause “real harm” to people, their health, and their physical safety.”
In July 2021, the U.N. General Assembly highlighted global concerns over “the exponential spread and proliferation of hate speech” and proclaimed 18 June as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, which was celebrated for the first time in 2022.