'Words Can Be Weapons': UN Slammed Over Online 'Hate Speech' Tweet

'Words Can Be Weapons': UN Slammed Over Online 'Hate Speech' Tweet

by Swarajya Staff - Tuesday, November 29, 2022 12:53 PM IST
'Words Can Be Weapons': UN Slammed Over Online 'Hate Speech' TweetPic Via UN Twitter handle

The United Nations is being slammed by netizens over its tweet on hate comparing "words" with "weapons".

In a tweet over combating online hate speech on Monday (28 November), the UN said, "Words can be weapons".

It added that hate speech online can lead to cruelty and violence in real life.

However, netizens were not happy with UN's take on use of words as weapons.

"No. Words are words. Weapons are weapons. conflating the two suggests that you can respond to someone's words with a weapon," one Twitter user.

Another user questioned whether there is a set definition for hate speech.

"Who gets to decide what is hate speech? Is saying that my religion is the true one or that someone else's religion is false hate speech?" the user commented on UN's tweet.

"Anyone know where I can find a word-proof vest? Are there different ratings based upon how bad the words are?," wrote another user.

Interestingly, according to the UN, there is no universal definition of hate speech under international human rights law.

"The concept is still widely disputed, especially in relation to freedom of opinion and expression, non-discrimination and equality," according to the UN website.

However, to provide a unified framework for the United Nations to address the issue globally, the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech defines hate speech as…“any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.”

This, the UN clarifies, is not the legal definition and is broader than “incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” – which is prohibited under international human rights law.

The UN's tweet comes amid ongoing free speech debate in US after Twitter's new owner Elon Musk decided to reinstate accounts of former US President Donald Trump and some conservative figures and websites.

Musk on Tuesday (29 November) said that the files on free speech suppression on Twitter will be soon published on the micro-blogging platform itself.

Twitter has been long criticised for what the platform's critics regard as unfair and obscure standards regarding which accounts are censored or suspended. 

"The public deserves to know what really happened…," Musk tweeted.

In a separate tweet after White House press secretary Katie Jean-Pierre said that the Biden administration is "keeping a close eye" on Twitter, Musk said that his "battle" for free speech is for the future of the civilisation.

"If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead," he said.

Musk, who claims to be a free speech absolutist, had earlier in April defined what he meant by free speech.

“I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask the government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people," Musk had said.

Join our Telegram channel - no spam or links, only crisp analysis.
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.