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I Don’t Forward Hate: an online campaign against hate speech in Pakistan

I Don’t Forward Hate: an online campaign against hate speech in Pakistan

For decades, Pakistan has been battling the effects of hate speech, particularly against religious and ethnic minorities, women, and other marginalised groups. Violence has continued to escalate, and countless lives have been destroyed.

In recent years, hate speech and subsequent incitement to violence has moved into the online space, where its incidence has grown exponentially, and where perpetrators enjoy relative impunity for their actions.

A Pakistani non-governmental organization, Bytes for All, has joined forces with other like-minded groups and has launched an online campaign to fight against the increase in hateful language online. ‘I Don’t Forward Hate’ encourages people to condemn hate speech, and to promote ‘peace, inclusiveness and respect’ for all communities in Pakistan.

Haroon Baloch, Senior Program Manager and digital rights researcher at Bytes for All, explains: “If we promote an environment where everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender, can participate, we believe we can create harmony. This will put us on the path towards sustainable development.”

The campaign asks individuals to pledge for a society free of hate, by sharing a picture of themselves holding an anti-hate sign on social media. It asks organisations to do the same from their social media accounts.

Bytes for All, with the support of other partners, has been monitoring online hate speech in social media since September 2019 and has recorded several incidents targeting minority groups. They have noted, for example, a continuous trend of hate speech against the Ahmadiyya religious minority. One case, on Facebook, involved the collection of home addresses of Ahmadis in Taxila city, with a view to targeted attacks. There are also frequent attacks against Hindus, Christians and Shia Muslims, among others.

“We believe that such a hostile environment against minority groups should be counteracted. Education on responsible use of social media and the internet will go a long way to achieving this goal,” says Baloch.

The results of the campaign will be shared with the government, policy makers, the Pakistan National Human Rights Institution, academia and media, with the ultimate objective of protecting marginalised groups from the consequences of hate speech.

“Pakistan takes pride in being a mixed society,” concludes Baloch. “Our aim is to go back to these roots, and create a more just and dignified society where people enjoy equal human rights regardless of religion, gender, caste, creed, colour and profession.”

Bytes for All is a human rights organization and research think tank, which promotes the use of technology for sustainable development, democracy and social justice. They are dedicated to promoting the right to freedom of expression and information. The organization has had a collaboration with UN Human Rights since 2010, and has participated and contributed information and research to the UN Treaty Bodies and the Universal Periodic Review. UN Human Rights has also partnered with Bytes for All to deliver training sessions for Pakistani journalists on human rights reporting, and the role of the various human rights mechanisms.

Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in this article are those of the persons featured in the story and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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