After observing in recent years a dramatic increase in social media and other digital platforms of hate speech, discrimination and violence, the Government of Costa Rica announced on Wednesday that it will create a National Strategy to counter them.
Its preparation will be done in collaboration with the United Nations, which will be in charge of producing and applying the methodology, developing the situation analysis and carrying out field work including participatory workshops, sectoral and expert consultations, as well as documentary production.
The process will be led by a multidisciplinary team of professionals from the UN and the Government of Costa Rica, who have extensive experience. The plan is expected to be ready before the end of 2023.
In announcing the news, the Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodríguez, stressed that the central objective of the initiative is to contribute to the consolidation of the Costa Rican social democratic state and rule of law to ensure justice, equality and peace.
"We must not allow expressions of hate, violence and discrimination in public and digital spaces to become normalised. Today we recognise that decisive action is required from the state, but also from all social actors to address this great challenge," said Rodríguez.
A framework for joint action
The Costa Rican strategy, which will be the first in all of Latin America, is in line with the priorities of the Secretary-General, who has repeatedly expressed the urgency of taking action to stop these sentiments that call out the worst in human beings.
"Hate speech reinforces discrimination and stigmatisation and is most often directed against women, refugees and migrants, and minorities. Left unchecked, it can even undermine peace and development, as it lays the foundation for conflict and tensions, as well as large-scale human rights violations," stressed António Guterres.
The Costa Rica Strategy will help to determine responsibilities, create new monitoring and control mandates and identify areas for action. It will also provide solutions to be led by the Costa Rican State, with its corresponding institutions, to put an end to manifestations that incite hatred and marginalisation.
It will also identify a framework for joint action and partnerships with key sectors and lay the foundations for a long-term National Policy.
The head of the United Nations in the Central American country, Allegra Baiocchi, welcomed the government's decision to heed the call to create a national strategy against hate speech.
The UN stressed that today the country is an international leader in the study and action against this scourge.
For example, with UN support, the country has succeeded in establishing an observatory on hate speech at the University of Costa Rica.
It has also launched with the Costa Rican Bar Association a legal guide to support people who want to use legal channels and supported the creation of tools, materials and campaigns to identify cases of discrimination that have reached hundreds of thousands of people.
It also launched in recent weeks a guide to tackle digital violence against women in politics.
Exponential growth of hate on social media
The Central American country and the UN have been investigating and acting on this issue since 2018.
The most recent report on hate speech in Costa Rica revealed a steady increase in hate speech and segregation in recent years.
Precisely, the report called for strong actions to stem this wave of hate and discrimination.
Between June 2022 and May 2023, more than 1.4 million malicious messages and conversations were detected on social networks, compared to 937,000 in 2022, representing a 50% increase in such manifestations. But if the figure is compared to 2021, the increase was 255%.
"Today, with the launch of this process of creating a national strategy, we are taking a step in the right direction and as the United Nations we reaffirm our commitment to the Government of Costa Rica and to Costa Ricans to build a more inclusive, egalitarian society that respects diversity and the rights of all people. A Costa Rica where no one is left behind", stressed the UN representative.