38/53 Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance - Note by the Secretariat
Human Rights Council Thirty-eighth session
18 June–6 July 2018
Agenda item 9
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation
of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Note by the Secretariat
The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of
the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia
and related intolerance, E. Tendayi Achiume, pursuant to General Assembly resolution
72/156. In the report, the Special Rapporteur addresses recent, concerning shifts in
ideologies and support for Nazism and neo-Nazism and their glorification. Contemporary
manifestations of Nazism and neo-Nazism constitute continuing human rights and
democratic challenges, and the Special Rapporteur recalls the applicable international
human rights legal framework in this context. The Special Rapporteur highlights the
broadening of neo-Nazi groups to embrace white nationalists and right-wing populist
movements, and the manner in which this broadening poses a serious threat to many racial,
ethnic and religious groups. Women, gender and sexually diverse populations, and persons
with disabilities are also targets. She documents the recent political impact and popularity
of neo-Nazism and its embrace even by political leaders at the highest levels of national
office. She also surveys the role of technology in consolidating neo-Nazism and its harmful
effects, especially where children and youth are concerned. In conclusion, the Special
Rapporteur offers recommendations for future research and consultations in order for States
to better understand and address the contemporary scourge of neo-Nazism. She also calls
on civil society organizations to form unified, diverse coalitions in opposition to neo-
United Nations A/HRC/38/53
Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
I. Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 3
II. Neo-Nazism: a brief overview ...................................................................................................... 3
III. Applicable legal framework .......................................................................................................... 5
IV. Contemporary manifestations of glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism .................................. 6
A. Neo-Nazism’s broad ideological base and its social impact on racial equality .................... 6
B. The recent political impact and political popularity of neo-Nazism ..................................... 7
C. The role of technology in the spread of neo-Nazi ideology .................................................. 9
V. Conclusion and recommendations ................................................................................................. 11
1. The present report is submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to General
Assembly resolution 72/156, in which the Assembly requested the Special Rapporteur to
prepare, for submission to, inter alia, the Council at its thirty-eighth session, a report on the
implementation of that resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and
other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
2. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur addresses concerning shifts in the
ideologies and support for Nazism and neo-Nazism. She highlights, in particular, the
contemporary resurgence and spread of support for neo-Nazi ideologies in different parts of
the world, and the serious threat these ideologies pose to Jews, Muslims, people of African
descent, Roma, indigenous peoples, women, racial and ethnic minorities, gender and
sexually diverse populations, and persons with disabilities. Based on the previous reports to
the General Assembly and to the Human Rights Council, as well as on desk research, her
analysis examines these manifestations as contrary to human rights norms, including the
principles of equality and human dignity. Notwithstanding its historically specific and
geographically contained origins, neo-Nazi ideology remains a contemporary problem
affecting diverse populations.
3. As mandated by General Assembly resolution 72/156, the Special Rapporteur
intends to send questionnaires to member States and other relevant stakeholders in order to
inform her next report to the General Assembly and collect their views with regard to
combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to
fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
intolerance. She especially welcomes examples of strategies and practices that States have
found successful in combating these phenomena.
II. Neo-Nazism: a brief overview
4. Nazi and neo-Nazi ideology are antithetical to the principles at the core of
international human rights.1 The very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of
brotherhood. Member states have issued a clear statement that any doctrine of superiority
based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust
and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in
5. Nazism and neo-Nazism reject racial equality and even advocate extreme violence3
if necessary to achieve their vision of oppression and discrimination. At the core of these
ideologies is an unwavering commitment to the protection of the “purity” of the “Aryan
race” against other peoples who are cast as barbaric. Anti-Semitism is a central tool in this
ideology, and the extermination of Jews during the Holocaust remains a potent reminder of
why such ideology must never be tolerated and instead be vehemently combated. Neo-Nazi
intolerance is not limited to Jews or people of Jewish descent. It also vilifies many other
racial, ethnic and religious groups including Slavs, people of African descent and Muslims.
1 The term “neo-Nazi” generally refers to movements and groups that draw on the ideology of the National Socialist German Workers Party. Movements in this category are broadly premised on the
political philosophy advanced by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, but adherents adopt a wide variety of
2 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, preamble.
3 Holger H. Herwig, “Geopolitik: Haushofer, Hitler and lebensraum”, Journal of Strategic Studies, vol.
22, No. 2–3 (1999), pp. 218–241.
While anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism are central, neo-Nazism also
embraces homophobia and discrimination against people with disabilities.4
6. Although the philosophical commitments of Adolf Hitler are a central theme, neo-
Nazism has different variants. Indeed, some groups emphasize simple hatred against
historically discriminated groups, while others focus on the revolutionary creation of a
fascist political State.5 Neo-Nazism is also often closely aligned with white nationalism,
which shares a core commitment to white racial supremacy and the inferiority of non-white
people. This affiliation with white nationalism, as a contemporary trend of significance, is
discussed in more detail below.
7. At its extreme edges, members of the neo-Nazi umbrella believe a war between
races is imminent and thus seek to train and arm themselves in their quest for victory. These
groupings consist of militarized clusters of racist skinhead adherents of radical right-wing
ideology. Some activists acting on this belief and anticipating infiltration by security
agencies adopt “lone wolf” campaigns characterized by small cells of activists acting
without the leadership of the main group but drawing on its ideology to commit acts of
violence and terrorism premised on the ideology. The Special Rapporteur would like to
recall the horrendous act of terrorism that took place in Norway on July 2011 when Anders
Behring Breivik killed 77 persons, including 69 young persons, for the cause of racial
superiority. The killer clearly affiliated himself with neo-Nazi ideology, and his gruesome
attack, whose victims included many white Norwegians, demonstrates clearly why neo-
Nazism is a threat to nations as a whole, and not just to those racial and ethnic groups that
are its direct target.
8. In addition to these extreme adherents, today supporters of this ideology who do not
fit the conventional image of neo-Nazis are increasingly visible and proudly so.6 Neo-Nazis
also rely on various forms of popular culture to propagate their cause. For example, in
countries where Nazism and holocaust denial were prohibited, music became an important
tool used by neo-Nazi groups to spread their message and politicize potential followers.
Indeed, the main activities of these organizations include publishing and consuming music
and literature based on advancing Nazi ideology, staging grand meetings and making public
9. Neo-Nazism is by no means a new phenomenon. The emergence of the transnational
neo-Nazi movement can be traced back to as early as 1949 with the creation of the
European Liberation Front in London. 7 Since then, the number of neo-Nazi-affiliated
organizations has proliferated as new organizations and splinter groups emphasize different
aspects of the ideology. In the late twentieth century, a neo-Nazi culture increasingly began
to emerge in several different places worldwide, as local leaders imported ideas from
Scandinavia and Western Europe. 8 Neo-Nazi organizations started demanding racial
segregation and expulsion of non-white populations, especially in Europe and North
America. These organizations attempted to create a consciousness of white superiority from
which groups such as Jews, Roma and Sinti were among those excluded. Over time, the
appeal of the neo-Nazism movement has expanded progressively beyond its traditional
4 Raphael S. Ezekiel, “An ethnographer looks at neo-Nazi and Klan groups: the racist mind revisited”,
American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 46, No. 1 (2002), pp. 51–71.
5 Southern Poverty Law Center, “Neo-Nazi”. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-
6 In one country, white nationalists willing to support neo-Nazi ideology include “young men wearing
‘fashy’ haircuts, khakis and polo shirts”. Heidi Beirich and Susy Buchanan, “2017: the year in hate
and extremism”, Southern Poverty Law Center, 11 February 2018. Available at
7 Jean-Yves Camus, “Neo-Nazism in Europe”, in The Extreme Right in Europe, Uwe Backes and
Patrick Moreau, eds. (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2011), pp. 231–242.
8 Ibid., p. 236.
geographic bounds to include neo-Nazi organizations in countries beyond Europe and
10. For many years, neo-Nazis were largely out of the mainstream, finding safe havens
on the Internet or in small local and generally private gatherings. Neo-Nazi organizations
were generally marginal and lacked political efficacy. However, in recent years, the rise of
white nationalism and right-wing populist parties around the world — embracing hate
speech towards specific groups of people that are generally despised by neo-Nazi groups —
has permitted neo-Nazism to grow in relevance.10 Media reports suggest that links between
American and European neo-Nazis are strong and growing stronger. With good reason, the
growing phenomenon of websites run by neo-Nazi and skinhead organizations is of
increasing interest and concern to European institutions. Unfortunately, it remains the case
that neo-Nazism is more than just the glorification of a past movement; it is a contemporary
movement with strong vested interests in racial inequality and an investment in gaining
broad support for its false claims of racial superiority.
III. Applicable legal framework
11. In the fight against the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other similar
practices fuelling racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, the Special Rapporteur
wishes to recall that States have the following obligations.
12. As mentioned in the preamble to the International Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Racial Discrimination, States have proclaimed with conviction that any
doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally
condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial
discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere. Under article 5 of the Convention, States
have undertaken to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to
guarantee the right for everyone to enjoy various listed rights. According to article 4 of the
Convention, States must condemn all propaganda and all organizations that are based on
ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic
origin, or that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form.
Under this provision, States have also undertaken to adopt immediate and positive measures
designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination. Finally, article 4 also
requires States to declare as offences punishable by law: all dissemination of ideas based on
racial superiority or hatred; incitement to racial discrimination; all acts of violence or
incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic
origin; and the provision of any assistance to racist activities, including the financing
13. The Special Rapporteur also wishes to remind States of their commitment under
article 87 of the Durban Declaration to move forward in taking action against and
condemning organizations that disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred.
14. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the
fundamental right to hold opinions without interference. Significantly, article 20 of the
Covenant provides a vital clarification of the scope of the human right to freedom of
expression, namely that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes
incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
15. While recalling the relevant legal framework, the Special Rapporteur wishes to also
reiterate that revisions of the Holocaust and attempts to falsify history not only contribute to
9 See, for example, Marcos Chor Maio, “Against racism: search for an alliance between Afro-
Brazilians and Brazilian Jews in the early 1990s”, Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el
Caribe, vol. 10, No. 2 (2014). Available at http://eial.tau.ac.il/index.php/eial/article/view/1009/1044.
Jacqueline Z. Wilson, “Racist and political extremist graffiti in Australian prisons, 1970s to 1990s”,
Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, vol. 47, No. 1 (2008).
10 In one North American country, within the white supremacist movement, neo-Nazi groups saw the
greatest growth of 22 per cent, rising from 99 to 121 groups. Camus, “Neo-Nazism in Europe”, p. 238.
the rehabilitation and dissemination of Nazism and other extreme ideologies, but also create
fertile ground for nationalist and neo-Nazi demonstrations.11 Such revisionism may fall
under the prohibition of hate speech under article 4 (a), which States are required to declare
as offences punishable by law.
IV. Contemporary manifestations of glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism
A. Neo-Nazism’s broad ideological base and its social impact on racial equality
16. Neo-Nazism today regularly combines with other ideologies of racial superiority or
hatred as a means of widening acceptance and strengthening its support base. The Special
Rapporteur notes with concern the success of this strategy as suggested by growing support
and acceptance of neo-Nazi ideology in an increasing number of countries. To name but
one example, the former Special Rapporteur, in the report on his mission to Greece, 12
deplored the rise and normalization of neo-Nazi ideology and political parties grounded on
this ideology, such as the Golden Dawn, which entered the Athens City Council in 2010
and Parliament in 2012. The leadership and members of Golden Dawn had openly praised
Nazism and Adolf Hitler, and engaged in denial of the Holocaust and in anti-Semitic hate
speech as well as hate rhetoric against migrants.
17. The resurgence of neo-Nazism in contemporary times has much to do with the
broadening of this movement to include and contribute to various networks of white
supremacist, racist and xenophobic projects, especially the project of white nationalism,
and other extreme right-wing ideologies. This broadening of neo-Nazism has made it more
accessible, and by forging allegiances with other groups espousing ideologies of racial
hatred and superiority — including ideologies of white nationalism — neo-Nazi groups
have expanded their reach. As discussed below in more detail, political leaders and even
government officials at the highest level, have regrettably been complicit in this expansion.
18. The contemporary strengthening of neo-Nazism has had grave social consequences,
including violent acts by groups connected to this movement and who share related
ideologies of racial superiority and hatred.13 In Europe and North America especially, there
have been dramatic increases in anti-Semitic incidents tied to neo-Nazi groups and
affiliated white supremacist and white nationalist groups. As noted by the former Special
Rapporteur, several recent incidents were perpetrated by neo-Nazi-affiliated groups in
Greece, 14 Estonia, 15 Latvia, 16 Bulgaria, 17 the United States of America, 18 Ukraine, 19 the
Russian Federation 20 and Argentina, 21 to name a few. Contemporary iterations of Nazi
ideology have grown in their traditional strongholds and in some cases expanded beyond
them, posing a threat to racial equality in different parts of the world.
11 See A/HRC/23/24, para. 12.
12 See A/HRC/32/50/Add.1, para. 51.
13 OHCHR, “US racism on the rise, UN experts warn in wake of Charlottesville violence”, released on
16 August 2017. Available at:
14 See A/72/291, paras. 63–67.
15 Ibid., paras. 68–70.
16 Ibid., paras. 71–73.
17 Ibid., paras. 74–76.
18 See A/70/321, paras. 57–62.
19 Ibid., paras. 63–67.
20 A/HRC/26/21, p. 60, and a joint letter from the Special Rapporteur and the Special Rapporteur on the
human rights of migrants (RUS 2/2014). Available at https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/25th/Public_-
21 See A/71/325, para. 10; and A/70/321, para. 9.
19. In January 2018, anti-Semitic posts on social media and conversations denying the
Holocaust rose by almost thirty per cent compared with the same period in 2016.22 On
average, around 550 posts a day used neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic symbols, and 108 posts a
day denied the Holocaust.23
20. In the United States, anti-Semitic incidents rose by nearly 60 per cent, with 1,986
anti-Semitic incidents occurring in 2017.24 Similarly, in the United Kingdom, anti-Semitic
hate incidents have reached record highs, with a total of 1,382 recorded in 2017.25 Germany
has also seen a rise in hate crimes perpetrated by neo-Nazis.26 Government intelligence
agency reports also show an uptick in far-right violent crimes.27
21. An emerging neo-Nazi group in the United States, Atomwaffen, has been linked to
the suspects of at least five recent murders.28 A well-known white supremacist website,
Stormfront.org, or as dubbed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “the murder capital of
the internet”, is linked to almost 100 killings between 2009 and 2015.29 White supremacist
murders more than doubled in 2017 compared with 2016 — accounting for 18 of the total
34 extremist-related murders in the United States.30
B. The recent political impact and political popularity of neo-Nazism
22. The Special Rapporteur expresses her deep concerns at the general growing presence
of expressions of Nazism, neo-Nazism and fascism in politics worldwide, especially in
several European and North American countries. Neo-Nazi groups today are emboldened
by prominent populist leaders who share their beliefs and espouse the same rhetoric as they
do. Indeed, the rise of populism and, especially, right-wing, nationalist populism has, in
some countries, aided the popularity of neo-Nazi ideology. Although many nationalist
populist leaders in Europe, North America and Australia 31 formally disavow neo-Nazi
ideology, they nonetheless express support for racist and xenophobic tenets that are
premised on similar ideologies of racial superiority that are at the core of neo-Nazi ideology.
All theories of racial superiority, and all efforts to scapegoat persons on the basis of their
race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation or related status make the work of neo-
Nazis easier. Even where neo-Nazis are not formally included in Government, the presence
therein of extreme right-wing ideologues can have the effect of injecting into governance
and political discourse the very same ideologies that make neo-Nazism so dangerous.
22 See www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/holocaust-denial-and-anti-semitism-on-social-media-up-
23 World Jewish Congress, “Anti-Semitic symbols and Holocaust denial in social media posts: January
2018”. Available from the web page in the preceding footnote.
24 Anti-Defamation League, “2017 audit of anti-Semitic incidents”. Available at
25 Community Security Trust, “Antisemitic incidents report 2017”. Available at
26 Germany, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Versfassungschutzbericht 2016 (Berlin, 2017), pp. 23–24
and 40. Available at https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/embed/vsbericht-2016.pdf.
27 Deutsche Welle, “Germany: far-right violence and Islamist threat on the rise”, 4 April 2017.
Available at www.dw.com/en/germany-far-right-violence-and-islamist-threat-on-the-rise/a-39534868.
28 Anti-Defamation League, “Murder and extremism in the United States in 2017: an ADL Center on
extremism report”. Available at https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/murder-and-extremism-in-the-
29 Heidi Beirich, “White homicide worldwide” (Alabama, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2014).
30 Anti-Defamation League press release, “ADL report: white supremacist murders more than doubled
in 2017”, 17 January 2018. Available at https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-report-white-
supremacist-murders-more-than-doubled-in-2017. See also River Donaghey, “Armed neo-Nazi
attempted terror attack on Amtrak train”, Vice, 5 January 2018. Available at
31 See A/HRC/35/41/Add.4, para. 51.
23. As a previous Special Rapporteur has noted, right-wing populism spreads and
exploits antipathy towards ethnic, racial or religious minorities by accusing these groups of
having co-opted political elites for their own advancement. Furthermore, as another Special
Rapporteur has also noted, in times of great social, political and economic anxiety in the
global North, it is among those who perceive themselves as the most marginalized
(including among white majorities) that such antipathy can gain easy traction. To exploit
the public’s dissatisfaction with, and fear and resentment of, the conditions of the State and
personal circumstances, right-wing populists adopt and advance opinions and trends that
are likely to fuel populist mobilization. In this regard, the following statement by the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights captures a persisting dynamic:
Populists use half-truths and oversimplification — the two scalpels of the
arch propagandist, and here the Internet and social media are a perfect rail for them,
by reducing thought into the smallest packages: sound-bites; tweets. Paint half a
picture in the mind of an anxious individual, exposed as they may be to economic
hardship and through the media to the horrors of terrorism. Prop this picture up by
some half-truth here and there and allow the natural prejudice of people to fill in the
rest. Add drama, emphasizing it is all the fault of a clear-cut group, so the speakers
lobbing this verbal artillery, and their followers, can feel somehow blameless.
The formula is therefore simple: make people, already nervous, feel terrible,
and then emphasize it is all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing.
Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them,
but a horrendous injustice to others. Inflame and quench, repeat many times over,
until anxiety has been hardened into hatred.32
24. Right-wing populists in some nations have shown themselves willing to align with
white nationalists and even neo-Nazis. In the last presidential election in the United States,
President Trump’s reliance on a political platform regularly espousing white nationalist
beliefs and vilifying racial, religious and national minorities created a safe harbour for neo-
Nazi ideology and action.33 Following the election of President Trump, he has on grave
occasion failed to condemn in an outright manner the glorification of neo-Nazism.34
25. In some countries in which expressions of Nazism and fascism are not prohibited,
several neo-Nazi parties have emerged and contested electoral processes. In some European
countries, political parties aligning themselves with neo-Nazi ideologies have emerged in
mainstream politics. Some such parties have achieved varying levels of electoral success,
32 Speech delivered at the Peace, Justice and Security Foundation gala, The Hague, 5 September 2016.
Available at www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20452.
33 Ibid. In that statement, the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the presidential
candidate and other political leaders in Europe whose racial ideologies have made the world a more
hospitable place for outright neo-Nazism. See Jessica Reaves, “White supremacists celebrate Trump’s
victory”, Anti-Defamation League, 10 November 2016 (available at https://www.adl.org/blog/white-
505254518.1522706891); Anti-Defamation League, “ADL deeply concerned over reports of anti-
Semitic & hate incidents following election 2016”, 14 November 2016 (available at
incidents-following); Human Rights Watch, “Update: US President Trump’s response to
Charlottesville events”, 14 August 2017 (available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/14/update-
us-president-trumps-response-charlottesville-events); Anti-Defamation League, “White supremacists
react gleefully to President Trump’s ‘rogue’ press conference”, 17 August 2017 (available at
conference); and Anti-Defamation League, “Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in the wake of
Charlottesville rally”, 30 August 2017 (available at https://www.adl.org/blog/anti-semitic-incidents-
34 Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “UN body criticizes US ‘failure at the
highest political level to unequivocally reject racist violent events’”, 23 August 2017. Available at
www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21990. OHCHR, “US racism on
the rise, UN experts warn in wake of Charlottesville violence”, 16 August 2017. Available at
www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21975. Beirich and Buchanan,
“2017: the year in hate and extremism”.
allowing them in some cases to secure legislative seats. As of July 2017, right-wing
populist parties were in Government in eight European countries: Finland, Greece, Hungary,
Latvia, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland, while there are three nationalist parties
that are now part of the governing coalition in Bulgaria.35 It was estimated that the total
number of European voters who supported a populist party in their latest general elections
amounted to 21.4 per cent.36
26. In sum, white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies have a symbiotic relationship
with right-wing populism, each strengthening the other. By adopting the language and core
ideas of these extreme ideologies, right-wing populists gain political power by mobilizing
these groups to vote for them. In turn, when populist politicians gain mainstream success,
white nationalist and neo-Nazi ideas become more socially acceptable. Emboldened by
seeing leaders sympathetic to their cause in Government, white supremacists and neo-Nazis
increasingly occupy public platforms and recruit new members.
C. The role of technology in the spread of neo-Nazi ideology
27. Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups have taken advantage of new digital
technologies and social platforms to promote their ideologies and arguments.37 Indeed, the
Internet has made it easier for people to communicate, express their views and engage in
debate across vast distances. The Internet has also provided groups espousing racial
superiority and hatred with effective platforms for spreading their messages, organizing
events and raising money. 38 The anonymity provided by the Internet and social media
allows people to express views that they would deny in public.39 Moreover, the interactivity
of new social media platforms allows for the easier creation of virtual communities in
which extremists can easily disseminate information to their target audiences.40
1. Digital recruitment, especially of youth
28. The Internet, and social media in particular, have become a growing means through
which neo-Nazi groups recruit followers. It is documented that hate groups such as these
usually direct their recruitment efforts at targeting susceptible individuals, such as loners
and children. Groups espousing racial superiority — including neo-Nazis — have
increasingly targeted children and youth as recruits because they are typically more
impressionable, may feel alone and marginal, and desire a sense of identity and group
belonging.41 Some neo-Nazi websites are specifically tailored towards children, with the
aim of their indoctrination. Neo-Nazi websites appeal to children through music, activities,
games, “memes” and cartoon characters on their websites.42 Indeed, even video games exist
35 See https://timbro.se/app/uploads/2017/07/briefing-timbro-authoritarian-populism-index-2017.pdf.
The three nationalist parties in Bulgaria are: Attack, the Bulgarian National Movement and the
National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria.
37 See A/HRC/26/49, para. 18. For example, the major hate forum, Stormfront, now has more than
300,000 members. Mark Potok, “The year in hate and extremism”, Southern Poverty Law Center, 17
February 2016. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/year-
hate-and-extremism. The site has been adding about 25,000 registered users annually for several years.
38 Francie Diep, “How social media helped organize and radicalize America’s white supremacists”,
Pacific Standard, 15 August 2017. Available at https://psmag.com/social-justice/how-social-media-
39 LaShel Shaw, “Hate speech in cyberspace: bitterness without boundaries”, Notre Dame Journal of
Law, Ethics and Public Policy, vol. 25, No. 1 (2012), pp. 279–304.
40 Gabriel Weimann, “Terrorist migration to social media”, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs,
vol. 16, No. 1 (2015), pp. 180–187, at p. 181.
42 Michael Edison Hayden, “Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer is ‘designed to target children’ as young
as 11 for radicalization, editor claims”, Newsweek, 16 January 2018. Available at
www.newsweek.com/website-daily-stormer-designed-target-children-editor-claims-782401. See also
Julian Baumrin, “Internet hate speech and the First Amendment, revisited”, Rutgers Computer &
Technology Law Journal, vol. 37, No. 1–2 (2011), p. 230 (“typical methods of attraction include
that are devoted to propagating ideologies of racial superiority and racial hatred. One
example of such a game brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur involves the
player playing the role of a neo-Nazi person tasked with killing non-whites or groups
identified as enemies by neo-Nazi groups. Furthermore, some of the neo-Nazi websites and
forums include revisionist historical educational lessons for children.
29. A study done by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization entitled “Youth and Violent Extremism on Social Media” explains that, while
there is some correlation between youth violence and extremist propaganda, the exact roles
of the Internet and social media in contributing to the radicalization process needs further
2. Digital platforms as sites of hate speech and incitement to violence
30. In addition to recruitment, neo-Nazis and other hate groups also use digital platforms
to incite hatred and violence on racial, ethnic, religious and related grounds.44, 45 The ease
and rapidity with which information can now be shared online, especially through social
media platforms, means these platforms have now become arguably the most frequent sites
of hate speech, and even incitement to violence. These platforms have facilitated the global
transmission of harmful stereotypes against stigmatized groups targeted by groups such as
neo-Nazis. Such stereotypes and related propaganda make violence against targeted groups
more acceptable and arguably more likely.46 In addition, neo-Nazi and related groups have
also relied on online platforms to plan and circulate information about public events that
range from demonstrations to acts of violence, including targeting groups and individuals
on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation and
31. As just mentioned, digital platforms are now a hotbed for the spread of ideologies of
racial superiority. YouTube is the main content generator for some of the most intense
right-wing media. YouTube stores billions of videos and has a massive reach of over 1.5
billion viewers a month.47 It directs viewers to videos based on videos previously watched;
thus, a person who watches a neo-Nazi video will be directed to similar content. Notably,
videos are used by neo-Nazis to help create false images.48 For example, a video of a neo-
cloaking racist and xenophobic messages within music, games, activities, and cartoon characters”);
John M. Cotter, “Sounds of hate: white power rock and roll and the neo-Nazi skinhead subculture”,
Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 11, No. 2 (1999), p. 121; James Paul Gee, “Stories, probes, and
games”, Narrative Inquiry, vol. 21, No. 2 (2011), p. 356; and Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, Diana R. Grant
and Chau-Pu Chiang, “Hate online: a content analysis of extremist Internet sites”, Analyses of Social
Issues and Public Policy, vol. 3, No. 1 (2003), pp. 29–44, at p. 35.
43 Séraphin Alava, Divina Frau-Meigs and Ghayda Hassan, Youth and Violent Extremism on Social
Media: Mapping the Research (Paris, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization, 2017). Available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002603/260382e.pdf.
44 See, for example, Beirich, “White homicide worldwide” (analysing the connection between
membership in an online platform espousing ideologies of racial superiority, incitement to violence
and actual violence against targeted groups); and Diep, “How social media helped organize and
radicalize America’s white supremacists” (discussing the use of social media to coordinate a rally that
included neo-Nazis and other hate groups and at which 1 person was killed and 19 others injured).
45 Beirich, “White homicide worldwide”.
46 Kusminder Chahal, Supporting Victims of Hate Crime: A Practitioner’s Guide (Bristol, Policy Press,
2016); Danielle Keats Citron and Helen L. Norton, “Intermediaries and hate speech: fostering digital
citizenship for our information age”, Boston University Law Review, vol. 91 (2011), p. 1437; Travis
Morris, “Networking vehement frames: neo-Nazi and violent jihadi demagoguery”, Behavioural
Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, vol. 6, No. 3 (2014), pp. 163–182, at pp. 163–171;
and Linda M. Woolf and Michael R. Hulsizer, “Intra- and inter-religious hate and violence: a
psychosocial model”, Journal of Hate Studies, vol. 2, No. 5 (2003), pp. 5–25.
47 Bob Moser, “How YouTube became the worldwide leader in white supremacy”, New Republic, 21
August 2017. Available at https://newrepublic.com/article/144141/youtube-became-worldwide-
48 Brentin Mock, “Neo-Nazi groups share hate via YouTube”, Southern Poverty Law Center, 20 April
2007. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/ 2007/neo-nazi-groups-
Nazi rally in one country blurred out anti-racist protestors to help present a powerful image
of a particular branch of neo-Nazis.49
32. Twitter has been utilized as a primary social media platform to exercise attacks on
journalists. Journalists rely on Twitter to share information and publish their work. During
the recent United States presidential campaign, anti-Semitic language was used in 2.6
million tweets generating more than 10 billion impressions.50 A significant number of the
anti-Semitic tweeters identified as supporters of the nationalist populist candidate who
eventually won that election.51 These tweets were directed primarily at Jewish journalists as
well as non-Jewish journalists who criticized that candidate.52
33. As social media platforms attempt to combat neo-Nazi and other ideologies of hate,
a challenge they face is the variation in national standards prohibiting hate speech.
Countries that have legal frameworks that protect speech that is prohibited elsewhere
ultimately serve as safe havens for neo-Nazi speech.53 Consequently, many hate groups host
their sites on Internet service providers in the United States.54
34. Although social media companies are slowly working towards a better control of
content posted on their platforms,55 as recommended by the Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination in its general recommendation No. 35 (2013) on combating racist
hate speech, there is still much work to be done effectively to address racial hatred and
V. Conclusion and recommendations
35. There are deep structural causes behind the rise of extreme and unashamed
ideologies of racial superiority, including neo-Nazism. These require reform at a
fundamental level, including counteracting the economic inequality that can catalyse
intolerance and discrimination. At the same time, there are discrete measures that
States can take to combat some of the trends identified in this report, especially the
role of technology in aiding neo-Nazism, and the effects of neo-Nazism on children and
youth, and their involvement in affiliated groups. As a matter of priority, more
research is required to develop a better understanding of these two issues. As a result,
the Special Rapporteur makes the following recommendations to member States:
(a) The Special Rapporteur reiterates the recommendations contained in the
reports of her predecessors to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly,
as they remain valid and current. She also urges States to take immediate measures to
combat direct and indirect manifestations of neo-Nazism, racism and related
intolerance, including implementing legal sanctions;
50 Anti-Defamation League, “Anti-Semitic targeting of journalists during the 2016 presidential
campaign” (New York, 19 October 2016). Available at
53 For example, the legal frameworks of one North American country have been favourable to neo-Nazi
and other hate groups propagating hate speech. Peter J. Breckheimer, “A haven for hate: the foreign
and domestic implications of protecting internet hate speech under the First Amendment”, Southern
California Law Review, vol. 75 (2002), pp. 1493–1528, at p. 1506. Ira Steven Nathenson, “Super-
intermediaries, code, human rights”, Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, vol. 8, No. 19 (2013),
55 Julia Fioretti, “Social media companies accelerate removals of online hate speech: EU”, Reuters.
Available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-hatespeech/social-media-companies-accelerate-
56 See A/HRC/26/49, para. 17.
(b) The Special Rapporteur urges States to assist civil society organizations
representing the spectrum of populations directly impacted by contemporary
manifestations of neo-Nazism and related intolerance, by providing them with the
resources necessary to form and sustain diverse and transnational coalitions.
Notwithstanding its historically specific and geographically contained origins, neo-
Nazi ideology remains a contemporary problem affecting diverse populations as
discussed above. Its common impact on peoples of different racial, ethnic, religious or
related groups should unite these groups, including across borders, in the fight against
(c) In the light of General Assembly resolution 72/156, which mandates the
present report, the Special Rapporteur wishes to echo the Assembly’s encouragement
of States that have made reservations to article 4 of the International Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to withdraw these reservations
due to its obligatory character. She also calls upon States to continue taking steps
through national legislation in accordance with international human rights law, aimed
at preventing hate speech and incitement to violence. States must withdraw support
— financial and otherwise — from political parties and other organizations that
engage in neo-Nazi or other hate speech or fail forcefully to condemn such speech by
their members. Where such hate speech aims, or can reasonably be expected to incite
violence, States must take steps to dismantle the responsible organizations;
(d) States should provide resources, including to this mandate, for research
and consultations, including with stakeholders such as private technology and social
media companies, in order to deepen international understanding of how technology is
aiding the spread of racial and related intolerance. This research should also produce
recommendations for concrete steps for combating the advance of neo-Nazism
through online technologies;
(e) States should provide resources, including to this mandate, for research
and consultations, including technology and social media companies and experts in
child psychology, to deepen international understanding of the impact of neo-Nazism
on youth and children, and the factors that draw youth to neo-Nazi movements. This
research and related consultations should also produce a blueprint for combating
youth and child involvement in neo-Nazism;
(f) States must also take immediate measures to combat direct and indirect
manifestations of neo-Nazism, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance affecting
youth and children, including their recruitment to extremist groups.
36. For her next report to the General Assembly on neo-Nazism, the Special
Rapporteur respectfully calls on States to share information on their concerns and
good practices with respect to technology and youth where neo-Nazism is concerned,
as outlined in this report. She will issue a formal call for submissions in this regard in