Strategies against Hate Speech

Counter Speech

People are affected by hate speech in very different ways. Anyone dealing with hate speech online should therefore not only teach media literacy and advocate for a fair culture of discussion, but also be informed about the content of discriminatory structures in analog life.

As a general rule, no one should have to fear violence in the public sphere. And of course this applies equally to the digital habitat. Countering racist and inhuman voices is therefore a task for society as a whole. Offline and online.

Parents and educators are called upon to act as role models. In this respect, the following tips for young people also apply to adults in order to take responsibility online. Parents and educators should discuss how to deal with hate speech with young people and address it in their educational work.

Be active against hate speech

The Internet is your living space. Take responsibility and make sure that racism, sexism and hate speech have no place on the Internet. Haters and constant troublemakers (so-called trolls) must not be allowed to cause girls or boys to withdraw from social media for fear of violence. Show civil courage - online and offline!

Take a stand for open-minded and respectful coexistence. Point out to others if you consider what they post to be racist. Inform yourself, argue against incitement on the Internet, resist with words. This way, racists and misanthropes do not have the feeling that they are acting on behalf of a silent majority.

Pay attention to netiquette and a fair tone - even words can hurt others. Avoid aggressive-sounding pseudonyms. Even on supposedly funny sites, make sure that the jokes are not made at the expense of others. Discrimination is not funny! Be careful not to use language patterns that contain prejudices.

Delete insults and threats as a moderator of a page. Block people who make racist comments or remove them from your friends list. Report hate comments to the site operators so that they can be deleted. Do not forget to provide evidence in the form of screenshots. Statements that are, for example, incitement to hatred or violence are forbidden by law and can be punished.

Hate speech is sometimes not recognizable at first glance. In some cases, false statements are deliberately spread to incite hatred, or hate speech masquerades as irony. Right-wing extremist groups in particular use social media to spread misanthropic content. Be critical and check sources and profiles. Only adopt as friends those you know and trust.

Irony can also be a means of countering hatred on the web with attitude. Sometimes humor also helps to debunk absurd arguments. However, this does not stimulate a factual discussion and there is a risk of being misunderstood. Those who engage with content must bring a lot of time and energy to the table and be careful not to become a target themselves.

Be aware of yourself and your limits when dealing with hate comments. There are people on the Internet who want to spread their hate messages as far as possible, no matter how. If posts from such constant troublemakers get too close to you, delete or block them. Don't expose yourself to unnecessary danger with counter-speech.

If you're unsure or are being targeted yourself, talk to friends, parents, or other trusted people and get support. You can find help on these sites on the web:

Promote a culture of communication

The long-term prevention of hate speech needs a solid foundation. Adolescents need experiential spaces to develop a factual, open and appreciative debate culture. This includes genuine opportunities for participation in shaping their (digital) lives, through which they can experience the value of democratic processes. In their discussions with others, they should learn to give constructive feedback and to accept it themselves.

Furthermore, educational professionals and parents are needed who seek out content-related discussions. In this way, the everyday structures of discrimination that provide the breeding ground for hate speech can be broken down: racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism, sexism, and homophobia and transphobia.

Gender-sensitive pedagogy, which takes gender issues and sexuality into account, can also provide an important building block for the prevention of hate speech. This also applies to intercultural approaches or the discussion of faith issues in work with young people. Specific materials for work on these and other topics can be found at klicksafe.de (e.g., the material packages "Ethik macht klick" and "Let's talk about Porno"), www.ufuq.de (portal for pedagogy between Islam, Islamophobia and Islamism) or www.pinkstinks.de on the topic of gender roles.

Action concepts for facilities

Institutions and groups that want to communicate via social media channels need a strategy for uniform administration of the online offering. This includes certain measures: e.g., commenting on unwanted comments individually, reporting them to the platform operator, and/or deleting them. Permanent troublemakers (so-called trolls) should be blocked. A permanent editorial team has proven its worth. Employees should request appropriate time slots or working hours for this purpose.

Above all, administrators should be visible and not be intimidated by censorship calls. It is important to adhere to the established rules of conversation and, in the event of violations, to delete them rigorously. If an institution does not have sufficient time or staff to intensively manage its Internet presence, it can restrict or disable comment functions. Users can then still share, like or retweet posts.

Tips for setting up rules can be found at www.belltower.news, for example, which lists many concrete ways of responding to right-wing populist discussion strategies. The Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia (Landesanstalt für Medien NRW) offers training materials on the topic of "Learning to moderate hate comments."

In principle, it is always worthwhile to get in touch with users and be approachable. In this way, they feel taken seriously and are more willing to show civil courage, intervene or report violations in acute cases. In the long term, engaged users are the best response to hate comments. Because trolls and haters are not the masses.