It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. There is an epidemic of hate online and it’s spreading like wildfire. Just scroll through your social media feed, and you’ll witness it – the worst kind of one-way conversation, with people slamming one another for the smallest perceived difference – from the colour of their skin to gender, from their political beliefs to their faith.
Social media, in fact, seems to have become the epicentre of this problem, with racists, anti-Islamists, misogynists, homophobes, anti-immigrants, political armies and organized internet trolls embracing this technology to not only disseminate their propaganda, but also block any alternative discourse.
The good news is that there is an increasing awareness worldwide that this hate mongering needs to stop. And concerned people around the world are coming together in greater numbers and with stronger voices, using super creative ways, to fight this worrying trend.
Here are 5 novel initiatives from around the globe that are taking a stand against hate speech to ensure the internet becomes a safe space for everyone:
Formed sometime after the 2016 US Presidential elections in the USA, the Sleeping Giants was formed with a simple goal – to stop racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic news sites by stopping their ad dollars. How do they do it? By using social media to inform companies when their ads appear on websites that spew online hate and subsequently helping companies take those ads down.
In little more than a year, the initiative has met tremendous success, with more than 3600 advertisers removing themselves from the far right American news website Breitbart after being alerted by the initiative. What’s more, the success of the initiative has meant that there are Sleeping Giants feeds in over 10 countries and territories now, taking on the same issues in their part of the world. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?
One of the most cheeky campaigns to combat online hate began in Germany, a country that remains acutely aware of the devastating consequences of hate and xenophobia. Started sometime in 2014, Donate the Hate is an inventive campaign through which one euro is donated for every misanthropic, hateful comment that is spotted and responded to by the German non-profit organization ZDK Gesellschaft Demokratische Kultur, or its partners. The donations go toward supporting refugees as well as a group that supports Germans who wish to leave far-right movements.
Could there be a better way to make haters and trolls make a donation against their own cause?
A love mob against online hate and racism, ##Jagärhär, is a Sweden based closed group on Facebook. Every day, group members post links to a newspaper’s comment section or social media page where hostile comments and personal attacks have started to take hold. In a short span of time, hundreds of group members then leave friendly messages and appeals for a reasoned discussion on the thread – overcoming hate with love.
According to the EU observer, the website was created in May 2016 by Mina Dennert, a Swedish journalist, who said the amount of hate she faced on daily basis made her “feel a bit smaller every year”.
“We are not an opinion mob. Our success is not necessarily measured as getting others to change their views. Rather, the purpose of the group is to allow more people to make themselves heard and to facilitate good discussions without hate and threats,” the group rules say.
Video game developer and activist Zoe Quinn lived through a sustained, two-year campaign of harassment, after an ex-boyfriend’s blog post. That post sparked an online movement that came to be known as GamerGate, and plunged Quinn’s life into total chaos. The harrowing experience she went through, pushed her to launch Crash Override, a support network aimed at helping others who find themselves in the same situation.
The network not only provides emotional support to those facing online harassment but also helps those affected interact with law enforcement and the media – institutions which often fail to understand the ground realities of online abuse.
When you can’t fight them, inundate them with positivity. Trollbusters, a website that provides just-in-time rescue services to support women journalists, bloggers and publishers who are targets of cyber harassment was found with just this aim in 2015.
Trollbusters, uses positive memes, endorsements and testimonials into online feeds at the point of attack to dilute the stings of cyberbullies, trolls and other online pests to counter hate with love-filled messages.
In today’s interconnected world, it’s impossible to stay off the internet. But it is possible, to protect oneself, to ask for help, and like these initiatives are doing, help others out. The tide, against online hate, can turn. And the internet can become a safe space again. We just need to rally behind making it happen.
Day 13 of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign:
Combat hate and abuse with positive counter-speech and affirmations!
Use this space to share with us any organizations, tools, or projects that are doing great work to combat online harassment.
#SOFJO #16days #endVAW #orangetheworld
Posted by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on Thursday, 7 December 2017