UN chief says COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a tsunami of hate speech


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for a global effort to tackle the tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” unleashed by the Conavirus (COVID) pandemic.

“Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred,’’ Guterres said in a video message.

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes has emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable.’’

He said migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus and denied access to treatment, while journalists, health workers and human rights advocates have also been targeted.

The UN chief called on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of society and civil society to increase outreach to vulnerable people.

As billions of young people are online and “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences,” schools should focus on digital literacy, he said.

He also urged social media companies to do more to tackle racist, misogynous and other harmful content.

“We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,’’ Guterres said.