United nations — “Many parts of the Internet have become toxic dumping grounds for hate and vicious lies,” warned the UN Secretary-General on the Day to Remember the Victims of the Holocaust, and urgently appealed for barriers to be put in place against hate speech.
Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday that anti-Semitism is everywhere and growing in intensity.
He added, “And what applies to anti-Semitism applies to other forms of hate – racism, anti-Muslim bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny.”
“Neo-Nazi movements and white supremacy are becoming more dangerous by the day,” he said at the United Nations’ annual observance marking the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust.
They pose the greatest threat to homeland security in many countries, Guterres said, and have targeted synagogues, mosques, refugee centers and shops from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Buffalo, New York, to El Paso, Texas, to Oslo, Norway.
The Secretary-General warned that the world is not only facing extremism, but also increasingly facing terrorism, and the danger is increasing.
“One of the main accelerators of this growth is the Internet world,” he told the hundreds of people in the vast Assembly Hall and many others watching around the world.
Guterres said that many parts of the internet have become “profit-driven catalysts for bringing extremism from the fringes into the mainstream”.
“By using algorithms that amplify hate to keep users glued to their screens, social media platforms are complicit,” he said. “So are the advertisers who support this business model.”
The UN chief urged “all those who have influence across the information ecosystem” – information regulators, policy makers, technology companies, media, civil society and governments – to “stop the hate”.
“Put up the guardrails and impose them,” Guterres said.
He said regulations should clarify responsibility and improve transparency.
The UN commemoration began with a moment of silence for the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis as well as other minorities who were murdered in the Holocaust – Roma, Sinti, people with disabilities, Afro-Germans, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war. political dissidents and others.
Guterres said the Nazi party came to power in Germany 90 years ago, and virulent anti-Semitism became official government policy due to the “indifference – if not complicity – of millions.”
This, he said, led to the deaths of nearly two-thirds of European Jewry by the end of World War II.
“Today, we can hear the echoes of the same siren songs to hate,” said Guterres.
General Assembly President Chapa Krusi echoed the Secretary-General’s statement, saying that “the hate that made the Holocaust possible continues to fester on the Internet.”
He referred to popular culture leaders with millions of online followers who “make anti-Semitic statements and spew hate”.
He said there are clear links between extremist ideologies that spread hate online and their real-world consequences that can no longer be ignored.
“With the conflicts, wars, and atrocious crimes that continue to devastate nations and societies, we have to tackle the tsunami of misinformation that has crashed around the internet,” Korosi 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 its words with actions to “combat bigotry” and the rise of anti-Semitism.
“I beg you,” he said, “that our words today may also be followed by deeds.” “The United Nations…must take a stand against anti-Semitism rather than allow it to fester into violence.”
Jacques Grishaffer, a Jew born in Amsterdam in March 1942 who survived the Holocaust because a non-Jewish woman hid him with his grandfather, said at the memorial that most of his family were killed.
When he became president of the Dutch Communication Committee in 1998, he promised its founders to continue combating anti-Semitism “with every fiber of my being,” he said.
“And that fight is still necessary today,” Grishavir said. “Anti-Semitism rears its ugly head all over the world, even in the Dutch Parliament where xenophobic nationalists are allied with virulent conspiracy theorists.”
He said churches that promote nationalist sentiments have become “fertile grounds for the pursuit of racial purity”.
As part of the Dutch Commission’s campaign to preserve Holocaust remembrance and educate a new generation about the dangers of exclusion and discrimination, Grishaffer said a national Holocaust memorial designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind will be unveiled in Amsterdam in September 2021.
He said that more than 102,000 dead Jews – including members of his family – and 220 dead Roma and Sinti “reclaimed their names and a place in the world in the heart of the Dutch capital”.
He said these names should serve as a “never again” reminder to people today and generations to come.
After Gerishfer’s talk, Cantor Nissim Sal sings, to the navigator Rashamim, the Jewish prayer imploring the souls of the departed to be granted eternal peace.