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Internet: A Digital & Political platform For Online Racism, Hatred

New York, Nov 5 2012 (IPS) - After having presented two reports to the General Assembly Monday,  Mutuma Ruteere, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, highlighted his findings on the challenges and dangers of racism, discrimination and hatred disseminated online, providing a digital platform for extremist groups and movements to propagate their ideologies and attack racially defined groups.

“Currently, the internet has become the preferred tool of propagation and dissemination of racist content by many groups, individuals and political movements,”  Ruteere pointed out as he introduced the annual report, the first of the two he presented.

“Internet poses specific challenges to states that seek to combat racial discrimination and racism because of its borderless nature and the complex nature of its technology,” asserted Ruteere.

In his second interim report, Ruteere proposed that states should apply legislation to address the challenges posed by dissemination of racist content on the internet in compliance with the guidelines provided by the international Human Rights framework, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention of Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

On the other hand, the human rights activist stressed that internet also provides a window of opportunity since it can be applied as a tool to combat racism and should therefore not only be blamed for the challenges it poses but also the opportunities it presents.

He explained that internet functions as an international platform for individuals, groups and organizations to communicate with each other in an inexpensive way which is less likely the case with traditional media. Therefore, Ruteere pointed out that states should take into consideration and further develop internet as a tool to combat the spread of hatred.

The special rapporteur voiced his concerns about internet being increasingly used to recruit members – and in particular youth – to racist organisations and even more worrisome to extremist organisations like the neo-Nazi movements. Embracing extremist ideologies, these groups abuse the political and digital platform aiming to target individuals pertinent to certain racial minority groups and therefore jeopardizing the democratic process, explained Ruteere in an interview.

In his report, Ruteere recommended profound investigations and prosecutions of individuals and incidents that involve racial violence and attacks and put in place effective legislation to address this problem. In his view, political parties and leaders “have the responsibility to denounce extremist agendas and refrain from mobilizing such extremist platforms.”

The expert discovered that there are still too many differences on a regional level concerning legal definitions as to what should be subject to regulation. However, “there are useful and encouraging measures, particularly with regard to regional legislation, that can provide an example to states on how to address the problem of racist content on internet,” asserts the human rights expert, referring to Europe where there already exists a protocol that provides regulation to address racist content on internet.

The human rights activist also emphasised the need for states to collaborate and communicate with not only national and international human rights organisations, but also the private sector and civil society movements and try to include the “voices of minority groups and victims of racial discrimination and racism.”

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