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Social media platforms cannot act as government’s proxy for censorship: UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye

Governments and nation-states shall not use internet companies or social media platforms as a proxy for restricting free speech, the United Nations said in its report on the protection of freedom of expression and regulation of online hate speech. It made several recommendations to governments and companies, including that companies should follow international human rights standards while governing hate speech on their platforms. It also noted that automated filters do not understand the context of speech and may curb legitimate speech, and recommended against the use of upload filters. It also called India’s internet shutdowns, especially in Kashmir, disproportionate and problematic. The report 'Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression' was submitted by David Kaye, UN’s Special Rapporteur on October 9. It highlighted that international law gives equal protection to online and offline speech and that states shouldn’t compel intermediaries, directly or indirectly, to do what they can’t do directly under international law. “Hate speech” is a vaguely defined term: The report said that hate speech has acquired a double-edged ambiguity, which allows governments to misuse it as “fake news” to attack political enemies, non-believers, dissenters and critics. The ambiguity also stops countries and companies from addressing genuine hate speech, that incites violence or discrimination against vulnerable and marginalised communities, according to the report.  The report also pointed out that no speech is hate speech, unless there is “advocacy of incitement”.  For instance, a person advocating a minority or even an offensive interpretation of a religious belief or historical event,…

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