UN Secretary General condemns hate speech, misinformation across social media platforms 


The high-level General Debate of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on Tuesday in New York with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling attention to the use of social media to spread hate speech, misinformation, and commit abuse.

Guyana’s Head of State Dr. Irfaan Ali is among scores of world leaders who will also speak during the debate and he too had raised similar concerns in Georgetown ahead of UNGA, noting its debilitating effect on development.

According to Secretary-General Guterres, new technologies have been useful in helping the world to respond to ongoing crises and the UN achieve its Sustainable Development Goals.

President Irfaan Ali and the Guyana contingent at the opening of the General Debate

He said while technology has been helpful to heal disease, connect people and expand opportunities, “there is a forest of red flags.”

“Social media platforms based on a business model that monetises outrage, anger and negativity are causing untold damage to communities and societies,” Guterres told the packed Assembly Hall.

The UN SG said hate speech, misinformation and abuse, targeted especially at women and vulnerable groups, are proliferating and social media has made it easy.

“Our data is being bought and sold to influence our behaviour – while spyware and surveillance are out of control – all, with no regard for privacy. Artificial intelligence is compromising the integrity of information systems, the media, and indeed democracy itself,” he added.

But how should world leaders respond?

Guterres fears there is yet to be the beginning of a global architecture to deal with any of this.

The Irfaan Ali-led government has long complained of having to deal with the brunt of hate speech and misinformation being posted across social media platforms by its domestic political opponents and even some of its actors living abroad.

As early as September 2020, just one month after he became President, Dr. Ali issued a statement noting how deeply grieved he was at the degree of race-baiting, racial hate, and racial hostility which pervaded the social media platforms at the time.

He had condemned then the use of social media for the promotion of racial hate for political purposes as wholly unacceptable.

But despite his urgings, two years into his presidency, Dr. Ali is still faced with the imperiled effects of this type of behaviour although some utterances have been found to constitute grievous criminal offenses under the Racial Hostilities, Cybercrime and other similar penal legislation.

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