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The 2009 Unlearning Intolerance Seminar on “Cyber Hate: Danger in Cyber Space”  will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 in Conference Room 2 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The seminar will explore the impact of hate-related discourse on the Internet and ways to counter it.

“The virtual world has exciting possibilities for nurturing children and helping them grow into creative, productive adults. But we must mind the pitfalls that could scar them for life.  I urge policy makers and industry leaders to find the means to make the rapidly evolving virtual world safe for everyone” 

- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The Internet has introduced momentous change in the ways we interact and communicate with one another. Today, there are more than 1.5 billion Internet users worldwide. More people than ever are connecting in cyber space through new services such as blogs and social networking sites. While the advantages of the information age are beyond question, the democratization of the web has also facilitated the propagation of hate, intolerance and bigotry. What are the No Hateimplications of an open, global communications network when online speech can incite violence, spread hatred and violate human rights? Where does the responsibility lie for enforcing a scheme of regulation? What role does education have in inspiring open and accepting online communities?
Hateful content on the internet has become worrisome to many. In 2008, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) reported that the Center identified some 8,000 problematic sites, a 30 per cent spike over 2007. In response SWC released a special report, which includes a 10-point action plan, calling for all stakeholders to work together to combat online hate. The 2008 iReport can be downloaded here.

In addition, the phenomenon of cyberbullying is receiving a great deal of attention from parents and educators, national governments and policy makers. According to some reports, as many as one in three children has been bullied, threatened, harassed or taunted through some means of computer or electronic communications, such as text messages, social networking site postings or chat rooms.   The Anti-Defamation League has developed resources to combat online bullying, such as “Trickery, Trolling and Threats: Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying", a training programme on cyberbullying for educators and administrators; “Using Children's Literature to Address Bullying”, lesson plans for K-12 educators on bullying and cyberbullying; “Cyberbullying: Understanding and Addressing Online Cruelty” ; and an educational campaign to address bullying in school communities (No Name-Calling Week campaign).

Protecting children is a top priority for the United Nations. That is why the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), together with other UN agencies and partners, launched in November 2008 the Child Online Protection initiative (COP), which has been endorsed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

ITU and its partners developed draft guidelines for the protection of children in cyberspace. This set of four guidelines advocate empowering children and young people through education and awareness; advice and safety tips for parents and educators; and information for policy makers and industry in order to formulate national and international strategies.

In addition, UNICEF has been conducting research towards the creation of legal standards and developing partnerships for the creation of modules for virtual safety of online communities.  UNICEF has also established Net Safety Day to teach children, their parents and teachers how young people can protect themselves against online abuse.  Without appropriate safeguards in place, cyber space can present unexpected dangers for young people worldwide.

The Department of Public Information initiated the "Unlearning Intolerance Seminar Series" to examine different manifestations of intolerance and to promote respect and understanding amongst peoples. These events offer opportunities to discuss how intolerance can be "unlearned" through education, inclusion and positive example. Past Seminars have focused on combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, genocide prevention and the role of the media in perpetuating or curtailing intolerant attitudes, including the responsibility of news organizations to print editorial cartoons that are culturally sensitive.

Watch the webcast.