13 November, 2013

Cyber world, Our world

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Category: Activism, Guest writer, National campaigns
Aileen Donegan
4 pm

13 November 2013

Ana Afonso, Vice-President of Centro Internazionale per la Promozione dell’Educazione e lo Sviluppo, talks to the No Hate Speech Movement about how important education is when fighting hate speech online.

The International Centre for the Promotion of Education and Development (CEIPES) is one of the Italian youth organisations involved in the Italian National Campaign against Hate Speech Online that is being implemented in the framework of the No Hate Speech Movement.

Last September CEIPES organised a training course in Palermo, Italy, with young people from different European countries aimed to raise awareness and build competences to fight hate speech online. The course received the financial support of the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe.

But what is hate speech online? And why it is so important nowadays?

Hate speech online has started to be a matter of great concern with the widespread use of the Internet and especially with the web 2.0, which allows for user generated content. This characteristic enables users to create content and easily upload it online in social networking websites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, webpages, etc. Therefore it became much easier for people to express their ideas and opinions also in the virtual world. More often than would be desirable people tend to express ideas and perspectives that are negative towards other people and groups – for instance expressing racist, discriminatory or misogynous attitudes. In the worst cases these sorts of expressions also incites to hate and violence, thus falling in the hate speech discourse category. Nevertheless in most cases it is not immediate or easy to tell if an online content is to be considered hate speech.

Hate speech online has been defined in the same way as hate speech with the only difference that it manifests online. For instance it can take the form of hate sites, videos with hateful words, spread of hate through chats, video games which incite to hate, social networks pages against groups and people with certain characteristics, and all other available possibilities in the online world. One of the most relevant definitions of hate speech is the Council of Europe recommendation on hate speech adopted by the Committee of Ministers (1997):

“…shall be understood as covering all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.”

Even though the definition does not make explicit reference to disability, sexual orientation and gender these dimensions are also relevant in hate speech cases.

Training in Palermo

The training in Palermo addressed many themes related to hate speech online. One of the most successful was the workshop on ‘Hate Speech in the Media’ aimed to raise awareness about the role of propaganda in hate speech discourse. The added value of this working session was the use of arts to express feelings, concerns and thoughts about hate speech and its main consequences. Moreover the use of a non-verbal method enhanced participants’ expression of dreams for a better future nurturing this way a sense of empowerment and hope.

Likewise, the simulation of a hearing of the European Court of Human Rights revealed very insightful things to the group. The simulation was based on one of the cases described in the ‘Manual on Hate Speech’ developed by the Council of Europe. The main points debated were: the difficulty to differentiate hate speech from free speech and the dilemmas and human rights issues raised by a legal approach to fight hate speech (online and offline). Therefore many questions were raised and are still under discussion, not only for the group of participants in Palermo but for the entire community of people working to fight hate speech:

Where are the limits of free speech? Who set these limits? What about the laws against hate speech, which may be used to create censure against political opposition or activists?

Indeed, the main work being done so far in the framework of the No Hate Speech Movement campaign has an educational dimension. Education is, up to now, the best and more efficient solution to work against hate speech online as it offers the possibility to raise awareness and to build competences to identify and respond to hate speech. To know more about the training outcomes you may visit our webpage.


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