“In today’s digital age, misinformation and hate speech are as ubiquitous as smartphones,” Yasir Khan, Editor in Chief of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, declared as he opened the panel discussion hosted by Web3 on September 13, 2023. The panel featured a diverse group of experts, each bringing a unique perspective to the table.
What is Web3?
“Web3 is not just a technological shift; it’s a paradigm shift,” Yasir Khan emphasized. “It’s still in its infancy, but it has the potential to be a game-changer in addressing hate speech and misinformation.”
The Digital Battlefield
“We’re not just talking about hate speech; we’re talking about a life-and-death issue,” Khan asserted. “Misinformation and hate speech online have a direct impact on the access to life-saving information and services by displaced people around the world.”
The Ice Cream Activist
Jessie MacNeil-Brown, head of social mission and activism for Ben and Jerry’s in Europe, was candid. “We’re an activist brand, and we’ve felt the heat,” she said. “Someone on the far right picked up one of our messages in France, and it led to a pile-on. It got so bad that someone even turned up at an employee’s house.”
The Humanitarian Perspective
Gisella Lomax of UNHCR was forthright. “Online harms are causing direct harm to refugees, asylum seekers, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people,” she stated. “We need a multi-pronged approach—understanding the problem, developing tools to respond, and focusing on prevention.”
The Voice of Experience
Nadine Tunasi, a refugee and activist, spoke from the heart. “The impact on the mental well-being that hate speech has on refugees and asylum seekers is significant,” she said. “We’re not just statistics; we’re human beings.”
The UN’s Strategy on Hate Speech
The United Nations has a comprehensive strategy and plan of action on hate speech. Launched on June 18, 2019, by Secretary-General António Guterres, the strategy aims to tackle hate speech at both global and national levels. “Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech,” Guterres noted. “It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous.”
The strategy focuses on two main objectives: addressing the root causes and drivers of hate speech, and responding to the impact of hate speech on societies. “As effective action must be supported by better knowledge, the strategy calls for coordinated data collection and research,” Guterres added.
What Can We Do?
“We all have a role to play,” said Khan. “Report hate speech, educate, support organizations, lobby for change, and be mindful.”
“In a world where hate can spread faster than a wildfire, it’s crucial to remember that we all have a role to play in dousing the flames,” Gisella Lomax concluded. “We need to do better. And indeed, we must.”
Call to Action
Contact your elected officials and demand action on this issue. You can also get involved in the fight against hate speech and misinformation by supporting organizations that are working to address this problem.
Participants in ‘Web3 – Tackling Hate Speech and Misinformation’ with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s, Freedom from Torture and UNHCR on Wednesday 13th September:
Yasir Khan: Editor-In-Chief, Thomson Reuters Foundation. An award-winning journalist, editor, podcaster and documentary filmmaker, Yasir leads the Foundation’s digital news platform Context covering the impacts of climate, socio-economic inequality and technology on societies around the world.
Jessie MacNeil-Brown: Head of Social Mission & Activism Europe, Ben & Jerry’s. Jessie is a specialist with a strong track record of designing and delivering initiatives that inspire the public and drive long term sustainable change. She has experience in both corporate & NGO sectors. Her work is currently focused on advancing and protecting the rights of those with refugee experience. Jessie has previously worked for IKEA, The Body Shop and Amnesty International.
Nadine Tunasi: Survivor Speak Out Coordinator, Freedom from Torture. A member of One Strong Voice network and Coordinator of the Survivor Speak Out group, Nadine is a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gisella Lomax: Senior Advisor on Information Integrity (Misinformation, Disinformation and Hate Speech), UNHCR. Gisella leads UNHCR’s new capacity to address the harmful impact of mis and disinformation, and hate speech on digital platforms. Gisella started her career as a journalist, reporting for national and international media organisations. She joined the United Nations in 2011, a time of global disruption to the information ecosystem driven primarily by social media.
She has served in various digital and comms strategy roles across the UN, including Head of Social Media for UNHCR, where she saw up front the harm misinformation and disinformation can levy on people who are forced to flee.