UN: Parts of the internet are becoming ‘toxic waste dumps’ for hate
UNITED NATIONS — The UN chief warned on the day to remind Holocaust victims that “many parts of the internet are becoming toxic waste dumps for hate and perverse lies”, urgently calling for guardrails against hate speech.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that anti-Semitism is everywhere and is increasing in intensity.
“And what is true for anti-Semitism is true for other forms of hate: racism, anti-Muslim bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny,” he added.
He told the annual UN ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that “neo-Nazis and white supremacist movements are becoming more dangerous by the day.”
They represent the main internal security threat in several countries, Guterres said, and have attacked synagogues, mosques, refugee centers and shops from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Buffalo, New York, El Paso, Texas and Oslo, Norway.
The Secretary General warned that the world is not only facing extremism, but is increasingly facing terrorism, and the threat is growing.
“And one of the main accelerators of this growth is the online world,” he told hundreds of people in the great General Assembly Hall and many others who were watching around the world.
Guterres said that many parts of the internet have become “profit-driven catalysts for moving extremism from the fringes to the mainstream.”
“By using hate-amplifying algorithms to keep users glued to their screens, social media platforms are complicit,” he said. “And also the advertisers that subsidize this business model.”
The UN chief urged “all people with influence in the information ecosystem” – information regulators, policymakers, technology companies, the media, civil society and governments – to “stop the hate”.
“Set guardrails and enforce them,” Guterres said.
He said the regulations should clarify liability and improve transparency.
The UN commemoration began with a moment of silence for the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis, as well as for other minorities murdered in the Holocaust: Roma and Sinti, disabled people, Germans of African descent, homosexuals, prisoners of war. Soviets. , political dissidents and others.
Guterres said the Nazi party came to power in Germany 90 years ago and that virulent anti-Semitism became official government policy because of “the indifference, if not the collusion, of so many millions.”
This led to the murder of nearly two-thirds of European Jews at the end of World War II, he said.
“Today we can hear echoes of those same siren songs to hate,” Guterres said.
The president of the General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi, echoed the secretary general, saying that “the hatred that made the Holocaust possible continues to fester online.”
He singled out pop culture leaders with millions of followers online “making anti-Semitic comments and spewing hate.”
There are clear links between the extremist ideologies that spread hate online and its real-life consequences that can no longer be ignored, he said.
“With conflicts, wars and heinous crimes that continue to devastate nations and communities, we have to fight the tsunamis of misinformation that is sweeping the internet,” Kőrösi said. “This is a responsibility that must be translated into action.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, accused the UN of not backing up his words with action “to combat intolerance” and growing anti-Semitism.
“I beg you that our words today are also followed by actions,” he said. “The UN…must take a stand against anti-Semitism instead of allowing it to fester and turn into violence.”
Jacques Grishaver, a Jew who was born in Amsterdam in March 1942 and survived the Holocaust because a non-Jewish woman hid it with her grandfather, said at the memorial that most of his family members were killed.
When he became chairman of the Dutch Outreach Committee in 1998, he promised its founders to continue fighting anti-Semitism “with every fiber of my being,” he said.
“And that fight is still needed today,” Grishaver said. “Anti-Semitism rears its ugly head around the world, including in the Dutch parliament, where xenophobic nationalists are in league with propagators of insidious conspiracy theories.”
He said that churches that promote nationalist sentiments have become “a dangerous breeding ground for the pursuit of ethnic purity.”
As part of the Dutch committee’s campaign to keep Holocaust memory alive and educate a new generation about the dangers of exclusion and discrimination, Grishaver said a national Holocaust memorial designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind has been unveiled. in Amsterdam in September 2021.
More than 102,000 murdered Jews, including their relatives, and 220 murdered Roma and Sinti “have regained their names and a place in the world in the heart of the Dutch capital,” he said.
Those names should serve as a reminder of “never again” for people today and for generations to come, he said.
After Grishaver spoke, cantor Nissim Saal sang El Maleh Rachamim, the Jewish prayer for the souls of the departed to receive eternal peace.