Hate speech in Covid-19 period

I guess it is easy to imagine that hate speech has risen in the last months. At least that was my assumption when I was proposed to write an article on hate speech at “coronavirus time”.

My assumptions were promptly confirmed by a quick research online. Here’s the data from L1ght, a company that works on artificial intelligence and online toxicity:

  • 900% increase in hate speech on Twitter directed towards China and the Chinese.
  • 200% increase in traffic to hate sites and specific posts against Asians.
  • 70% increase in hate between kids and teens during online chats.
  • 40% increase in toxicity on popular gaming platforms, such as Discord.

Certainly ECRI, the UN, FRA, ENAR, UNESCO, Human Rights Watch amongst many other international institutions raised their concerns about the situation, backed up by scaring data on the impact of this crisis period on minorities and racialised groups.

Many have even defined this period as a pandemic of online hate speech!

The causes of it are the same as usual, but exacerbated by the virus. In the past it has been employment, or the instrumentalization of safety and religion. Chinese and Asian people have been the most targeted by this wave of online hate speech, but not only. In general the difficulties of this period have been used to build on fear of migrants, muslims and other diversities.

It’s easy to blame others for our problems, or blame groups and countries for the world pandemic. The real difficulty is to get some distance from our situation, and take a wider perspective on the problems we already had as a world-community before Covid-19, acknowledging the issue it’s much more complex than just a “chinese virus”.

I would like to connect to the United Nations Guidance Note on Addressing and Countering Covid-19 related Hate Speech (11 May 2020) and to recall our role as non-profit and civil society organisations, as well as the role of RAISE! project partnership, in getting a stance on this matter namely by (citation from the document, p.7):

  • Actively speak out against COVID-19-related hate speech, misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories, express solidarity with those targeted by such expressions, and amplify messages that serve to reduce discrimination and stigma.
  • Monitor and report on the nature, scale and impacts of COVID-19 related hate speech, as well as legislative and policy measures intended to address such expressions.
  • Develop responses involving the most affected communities (e.g. social media campaigns).

And you, what are you going to do to combat hate speech in your life and local community? 

Link to the report: https://unipd-centrodirittiumani.it/public/docs/Report-L1ght.pdf

The article is written by Ana Rodrigues Afonso

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