Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, New York
June 20, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President and Madam Special Adviser.
The rise in hate speech recognized in resolution 75/309 on “Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech,” represents a threat to the values and principles that we are working to exemplify and promote. The impact of hate speech on communities and individuals can be devastating when it leads to targeting and exploiting the vulnerable with violence, exclusion, and discrimination.
Today, new technologies and means of communication can spread divisive rhetoric and ideologies on a global scale. If left unaddressed, hate speech can fray our social fabric and can precede wide scale human rights violations. While taking steps to address hate speech, the United States considers freedom of expression, whether exercised offline or online, a critical component of a vibrant, functioning democracy. For this reason, it is enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. Respecting freedom of expression enables the open exchange of information, robust public debate, and an independent press that are vitally important for free and secure democratic societies. Like the U.S. Constitution, international law enshrines the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression in both Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In the United States, we have long believed the strongest weapon against hateful speech is more speech that promotes tolerance and unity. We recognize that suppressing the expression of such ideas doesn’t make them go away. In fact, banning intolerant or offensive speech can be counter-productive, often significantly raising the profile of the offensive speech as well as forcing hateful ideologies to fester in dangerous ways. We have learned through our own experience that banning offensive speech is not useful in promoting a vibrant democracy, in respecting human dignity, or in creating space for change.
To combat the spread of toxic expressions of hatred, we deploy a robust array of policies to reach out to affected communities, provide conflict resolution services, and enhance dialogue. We also condemn hate speech at the highest levels of our government. Additionally, recognizing that individuals of racial, ethnic, and other minorities and vulnerable groups are often the targets of hate speech, we celebrate our diversity as a nation, our heritage, and our need to deliver the promise of America for all Americans, through activities such as the commemoration of emancipation with Juneteenth; last month’s dedication to Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage; and this month’s focus on LGBTQI+ Pride.
Respecting freedom of expression fosters societies that are more informed, resilient, stable, and tolerant; where individuals are better able to participate meaningfully in political decision-making and hold governments accountable; where people can peacefully air grievances and have their voices heard; where there is space for the broadest possible diversity of voices, viewpoints, values, interests, and ideas. Our belief in the freedom of expression requires us to address hate speech not with repression, but with more speech, not less. This may take many forms, but two of the most essential are truth-telling – standing up and responding to hate speech with facts – and promoting education to counteract the negative effects of hate speech.
We advise citizens to know the origin of their information, including the viewpoint and motivation of the source, and seek out multiple sources. The public is best served by thinking critically about their own assumptions and biases and by considering how others may try to influence and manipulate them with an aim to divide and spoil social cohesion. One of the best defenses against hate speech and disinformation is a free and transparent news media environment, which is why the United States actively engages with our allies and partners to strengthen independent media. We build global resiliency to disinformation through support for investigative journalism and related training.
Whether Member States, civil society and human rights defenders, the private sector, media and internet corporations, faith leaders, educators, and those individuals affected by hate speech, youth, or simply as individuals, we all have the moral duty and vital role to speak out firmly against instances of hate speech and reject any calls to violence.