Prohibiting Atrocity Speech on Social Media Platforms
: A research on State obligations under international human rights law with respect to the regulation of social media platforms regarding hate speech leading to breaches of jus cogens

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


My thesis focusses on IHRL obligations regarding the regulation of all forms of expression on social media platforms. IHRL only imposes duties on States, not on companies. The focus is on Social Media Companies (SMCs) incorporated under US law as they are the largest globally, both in revenue and users. The US barely restricts the freedom of expression and SMCs have constitutional rights. SMCs are considered internet intermediaries and are exempt from liability under US law. Under international law SMCs are also intermediaries with limited liability, and not responsible for user content. Under US and international law, SMCs lack governmental oversight, and as a result they self-regulate in accordance with their codes of conduct. Allowing SMCs with large commercial interest to regulate such a fundamental human right can be precarious. This is evidenced in the case study of Myanmar, where Facebook was used by the Myanmar government to disseminate hate speech of such nature that it led to atrocity crimes against Rohingya. US did not intervene due to constitutional constraints and Facebook failed to restrict expression, due to language issues which it did not solve in a timely manner. I conclude that there is a gap in international law concerning the regulation of expression on social media platforms. This may change with the EU’s DSA, which will regulate social media platforms regarding fundamental rights.
Date of Award30 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Public Law
SupervisorGleider Hernández (Supervisor) & Eduardo Arenas Catalán (Examiner)


  • social media platforms
  • hate speech
  • regulation
  • international human rights law
  • obligations
  • UW law

Master's Degree

  • Master Rechtsgeleerdheid

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