A more pro-active awareness and education effort to tackle the problem of online hate speech is needed!

The SELMA project has recently published "Hacking Online Hate: Building an Evidence Base for Educators". This research report highlights how online hate plays a significant role in teenager's online media experience, while calling for a more pro-active awareness and education effort from all stakeholders. Initiatives to monitor or report online hate speech only scrape the surface of a broader culture of online hate. The problem must be addressed through a more holistic approach that takes into account the nature of online hate, its causes and consequences.

The evidence base

The report results from a comprehensive research programme carried out by SELMA partners, comprising three interrelated components enriching each other: 

  • The literature review captures the full complexity of the online hate speech phenomenon and provides a comprehensive definition of what it is, while recognising other existing perspectives.
  • A series of qualitative focus groups, carried out with 11-16 years old pupils, provide a more descriptive account of the perspectives and experiences of children and young people with regard to online hate speech.
  • The quantitative survey, with responses from over 1,000 European teens and teachers (two key SELMA target audiences), further complements the findings of the focus groups.

Based on this evidence base, it is argued that, "to affect change, a more systemic shift is needed: one which informs and prepares children and young people for online hate by talking about it, in dialogue with their teachers, parents or other professionals or carers. Drawing upon their everyday online media experience, young people should be equipped to think critically about what hate speech is, why it occurs, which consequences it has, and what can be done about it." They should be able to understand how they and others form their identity, opinions, attitudes and behaviours, learning to empathise with other perspectives in a culture of mutual respect and open debate.

The Toolkit

The SELMA research provides a theoretical and empirical backbone for the SELMA Toolkit, the main output of the SELMA project. The Toolkit is conceived as a set of principles, methods and activities that will enable different types of stakeholders to work on online hate speech with 11-to-16-year-old teenagers. It consists of a range of modules looking at the issue of online hate through different lenses: social and emotional learning (SEL), media literacy and citizenship.

Teachers will be able to navigate through 100 activities, while being able to choose the materials that best suit their needs. The materials address a wide range of thematic questions such as:

  • What is online hate speech?
  • What is my role and what can I do?
  • How can we affect change in our community?
  • How can we work with online stakeholders to change the world?

Embedded within the citizenship element of the SELMA Toolkit there is a "Call to action" which begs the question "So what?" It is not enough to study and understand the issue. We need to do something about it.

The Toolkit is currently under development and will be made available at www.hackinghate.eu this spring.

If you want to learn more about the SELMA Project (Social and Emotional Learning for Mutual Awareness) a two-year project co-funded by the European Commission, follow the SELMA Facebook page or keep an eye on the Twitter hashtag #SELMA_eu