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Combating Online Hate Speech and Youth Radicalization

Friday 17 June 2016, by SIGNIS

Bonn, June 17th 2016 (UNESCO). UNESCO, in partnership with the German National Commission for UNESCO, hosted a session on Combating Online Hate Speech and Youth Radicalization in Bonn (Germany), on 14 June 2016, within the framework of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, which opened on Monday.

Moderated by Ms Albana Shala, Chair, UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the panel included well-known experts such as Ms Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor, Université de Paris 3-Sorbonne nouvelle, France; Ms Duygu Özkan, Journalist, Die Presse, and Member, Austrian Press Council, Austria; Ms Amukelani Mayimele, outgoing Executive Director of ZAYRAH, a youth led development agency, South Africa and Mr Brandon Oelofse, Senior Trainer and Coordinator, Radio Netherlands Training Center (RNTC). Panelists shared good practices, highlighted gaps and explored options for moving forward.

Freedom of expression is a universal human right, a cornerstone of peace and sustainable development, and a key societal value. Digital technologies have opened new avenues for freedom of expression, offering new opportunities to produce, consume and share content. They have also, however, facilitated the spread of online hate speech, extremist propaganda and recruitment for terrorism and radicalization, leading some to argue for tough legal and regulatory responses. But combating these ills should not be at the expense of freedom of expression.

According to the Camden Principles and the Rabat Plan of Action, free and independent media can play a critical role in combating discrimination and promoting intercultural understanding. Increasingly, media organizations and Internet intermediaries – such as social networks and search engines – are called on to moderate user-generated content in addition to that produced by professional journalists. At the same time, attention has been put on youth as both particularly vulnerable to radicalization and potentially most able to effectively counter it, when empowered with the necessary knowledge and skills.

In this context, here are the key questions discussed during the panel :

  • How can media self-regulatory mechanisms and professional codes of ethics adapt to digital-era challenges?
  • What practices do media organizations and Internet intermediaries use to identify and moderate user-generated online hate speech and extremist content?
  • How can free media defend the values of independent journalism in the face of actors who seek to instrumentalise them to counter one kind of propaganda with another kind propaganda?
  • What is the role of media and information literacy in empowering youth to become digital citizens?
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