November 22, 2021

Ad hoc advice to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

By Carnegie UK

Carnegie UK has today (Monday 22nd November) submitted ad hoc advice to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues in response to his call for draft guidelines on combating hate speech targeting minorities in social media.


Fernand de Varennes made his call in a report (A/HRC/46/57 ) in March 2021, acknowledging that there are adverse human rights impacts for minorities arising from the operation of social media which facilitates hate speech ranging from low levels of abuse and slurs to incitement to genocide. Carnegie UK’s draft guidelines draw from the work undertaken with a variety of UK-based civil society organisations earlier this year to produce a draft code of practice for hate crimes and wider legal harms; we are grateful to all those organisations for their input and ongoing support for this work.


In working up our advice to the Special Rapporteur, Professor Lorna Woods and William Perrin have drawn on existing international governance guidelines on business conduct and human rights – including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the B-Tech project carried out by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OECD’s Guidance on Responsible Business Conduct  – as well as Human Rights Impact Assessments. The guidelines remain rooted in our detailed approach to online harm reduction through a focus on the choices made by social media platforms in designing their systems and processes, rather than the individual pieces of content posted by users of those platforms. For instance, companies should ensure that, proportionate to risk they have sufficient moderators trained on language and cultural considerations to combat hate speech.


Our approach has informed proposals for online regulation under development – not just in the UK but elsewhere in the world. In developing this advice to the UN Special Rapporteur, Woods and Perrin demonstrate how our approach also has much wider international relevance through a range of possible interventions – built on due diligence in risk assessment, risk mitigation and reparation – that are human-rights compliant rather than regulatory models that are focusing on content takedown alone.


Carnegie UK is delighted to be able to support the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues in his important work and looks forward to continuing to engage with him as he takes forward his work on guidelines to present to the Human Rights Council.


We are grateful to Frontier Technology, a Minderoo Foundation Initiative for financial support of this work.