UN encourages community responses to online hatred in new report - APC and Bytes for All, leaders in promoting access and safe online spaces

Geneva, June 26, 2014: A new UN report discussed in Geneva on 25 June 2014, cites the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Bytes for All, Pakistan as leaders in working to protect freedom of expression online, strengthen the digital security of human rights defenders and end gender-based violence online.

At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, discussed the implications of a new report released in May 2014. The report highlights the proliferation of technology, especially the Internet, as a vehicle for propagating hatred and intolerance but also points to opportunities provided by the internet to build a culture of understanding and respect for diversity.
APC and Bytes for All are encouraged that the UN Special Rapporteur has previously recognized the gender-related dimensions of discrimination based on race and ethnicity. The international groups hope that the UN will continue to consider the impact of multiple forms of discrimination and how this can lead to violence and hatred based on sexuality and gender.
The current UN Report highlights the Take Back the Tech campaign, led by the two partner organizations, as a model of best practice for curbing gender-based violence online.
According to Mutuma Ruteere, Take Back the Tech “creates an online environment that features effective and reliable systems for reporting violence against women and empowering women in discussions that involve the creation of policy for social networking platforms, web hosting and telephone operators.”
On the broad issue of racism and the internet, a recent report on Hate Speech in Pakistan’s Cyperspace by Bytes for All, determined that racism on the Internet was much more prevalent than expected. “The quantitative study showed that the amount hate speech and incitement of violence online was like a mirror image of violence offline, except that technology was exponentially amplifying in a viral manner,” says Shahzad Ahmad, Pakistan Country Director at Bytes for All.
The B4A report also inferred that racism and discrimination were inextricably linked with censorship and surveillance. “One set of people appeared to have the right to disseminate hate material against others who did not have the space or power to present their counter narratives. Millions of Pakistanis, including women and religious and sexual minorities, suffer from this with no respite,” says Shahzad Ahmad.
Increasingly, UN systems have recognised the impact of technology on violence against women, and the need for effective responses compliant with human rights. “APC is encouraged by the Special Rapporteur’s emphasis on content diversity and education to combat hate speech online. We are also happy to see the assertion that hate speech measures should not be used as a pretext for censorship,” says Valeria Betancourt, APC Manager of the Communication and Information Policy Program.
Bytes for All, Pakistan and APC were part of the consultation process that led to the preparation of the UN report, and welcomed the report’s findings and recommendations.
Bytes for All, Pakistan and APC will be closely monitoring and contributing to policy initiatives on racism on the internet and social media in the year ahead.
About Bytes for All, Pakistan
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk
For more information:
Bytes for All, Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan
email: info[at]bytesforall.pk
Tel. +92 51 2110494-9