A person visits the Holocaust Memorial, in Berlin, Germany on January 27, 2023, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day / © AFP/File
The UN secretary-general warned of social media's role in spreading violent extremism around the globe as he marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, urging policy makers to help stop online hate.
Antonio Guterres said parts of the internet were turning into "toxic waste dumps for hate and vicious lies" that were driving "extremism from the margins to the mainstream."
"Today, I am issuing an urgent appeal to everyone with influence across the information ecosystem," Guterres said at a commemoration ceremony at the United Nations. "Stop the hate. Set up guardrails. And enforce them."
He accused social media platforms and advertisers of profiting off the spread of hateful content.
"By using algorithms that amplify hate to keep users glued to their screens, social media platforms are complicit," added Guterres. "And so are the advertisers subsidizing this business model."
Guterres drew parallels with the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany, when people didn't pay attention or protest.
"Today, we can hear echoes of those same siren songs to hate. From an economic crisis that is breeding discontent to populist demagogues using the crisis to seduce voters to runaway misinformation, paranoid conspiracy theories and unchecked hate speech."
He lamented the rise of anti-Semitism, which he said also reflects a rise of all kinds of hate.
"And what is true for anti-Semitism is true for other forms of hate. Racism. Anti-Muslim bigotry. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Misogyny"