Hate speech: Turn the tide

The rise and impact of hate speech is being amplified, on an unprecedented scale, by new media technologies, one of the most common ways to spread divisive rhetoric on a massive scale. world, threatening peace around the world.

According to the leading international human rights organization, Minority Rights Group, an analysis noted that the use of hate terms online in Pakistan increased 400-fold between 2011 and 2021.

Being able to monitor the generation of hate speech can provide valuable information for authorities to predict future crime or take action afterwards.

The Sentinel Project is a Canadian nonprofit whose Hatebase initiative monitors trigger words that appear on a variety of platforms and are at risk of turning into real-world violence. Chris Tucker, executive director of Project Sentinel, describes it as “an early warning indicator that can help us identify increased risk of violence”.

It works by monitoring online spaces, especially Twitter, looking for certain keywords, in a number of different languages, and then applying certain contextual rules to determine content. content that is or is not more likely to be actually hateful content.

The database is available to many other organizations, from academia, NGOs and the United Nations to individual researchers or civil society organizations using the data for their own purposes. .

‘Hate speech loaded guns, misinformation pulled the trigger’

For Mr. Tucker, hate speech and disinformation are closely related:Hate speech loaded bullets, misinformation pulled the trigger. And that’s the kind of relationship we’ve come to understand over the years.” Now, in theory, any person with an Internet connection could become a producer of that kind of content. And so that really changes things, and with global reach.”

Another organization that does a similar type of hate speech mapping is the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

The network monitors every single trial involved in atrocities war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and up to 700 open cases. When mapping hate, it looks for four different dimensions; Politicians’ hate stories, discriminatory language, brutal denial, and real-life incidents where minorities have been attacked.

According to Dennis Gillick, executive director and editor of their branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the main people driving hate stories in the country are populist, nationalist politicians means.

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“The idea behind the whole mapping process is to demonstrate a correlation between political statements and political motives of hate and the actual atrocities that are taking place,” said Gillick.

The network also wants to demonstrate that the lack of systematic prosecution of hate crimes and hate language facilitates this protracted cycle of violence, with more discriminatory language by politicians. politicians and fewer prosecutions.

“Due to hate speech, we have seen more and more far-right groups mobilized. “We are seeing rogue NGOs or rogue humanitarian groups mobilize to spread hateful or discriminatory language, to widen the gap between the three ethnic groups and the different religions in this country.”

Actual consequences reported by the Network include defacing or vandalizing mosques or churches, depending on the minority position of a particular faith group, and opening up calls for violence.

According to Gillick, this is pushing the agenda of nationalist parties that want to cause division.

In San Francisco in the United States, protesters took to the streets to protest the rise of race-related hate crimes against people of Asian descent.
Protests in San Francisco against the rise of Asian hate crimes (file)

Change the narrative

According to Gillick, the way to combat this toxic environment is to create counter-narratives, disseminating accurate, factual information and stories that promote unity rather than division.

However, he admits that this is a big request. “It’s hard to fight the public broadcasters, the big media with hundreds of journalists, reporters with thousands of flights a day, with a group of 10 to 15 journalists trying to write on topics very specific, in a different way, and do analytical and investigative reports.”

One organization that is trying to generate counter stories is Kirkuk Now, an independent Iraqi media agency, which is trying to produce quality and objective content on these groups and share it on social media platforms.

Salaam Omer, current editor-in-chief of Kirkuk, said: “Our focus is on minorities, internally displaced people (IDPs), women and children and of course freedoms. speech. “We see very little content [about them] in the Iraqi mainstream media. And if they are really described, they are described as problems,” said Mr. Omer.

In Pakistan, where some religious or faith-based groups are very vulnerable – especially the Ahmadis and Shia, then Hindus and Christians – Bytes for All, a humanitarian organization rights and a group of consultants, have launched an online campaign to combat hate speech.

The campaign sought commitment from various organizations in Pakistan and the public to amplify the message. It was launched in 2021 on Twitter, where it became one of the top ten trends in the country.

The next stage involved creating video messages highlighting the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan and university road shows to engage young people.

Mr. Baloch said that the campaign targeted people between the ages of 15 and 35, who make up the majority of Pakistan’s population because, “they’re really people who are using social media platforms, participating in engage in hate speech and are exposed to hateful messages like Good”.

A group of advocates against hatred and discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in the Central African Republic.  (2017)
Young people in the Central African Republic with a sign reading in French “No to Hate”

Long term solution

There is a common belief that social media companies are held accountable for the content they post and punished if hate speech is spread on their platforms, but for Claire Thomas , deputy director of the international NGO Minority Rights Group, this is not a long-term problem. term solution to the problem.

“What we saw in Myanmar is that when Facebook started to effectively control what was on its platform, hate speech in Myanmar moved to Tik Tok. When you have multiple platforms with very large audiences, you are only as strong as your weakest link. When you think about where those platforms are located and what jurisdictions have control over them, our ability to effectively get them to control their own content is actually quite limited. regime”.

In Ms. Thomas’s view, more focus should be on educating people about the dangers and harms of hate speech, while ensuring that they have more access to balanced content. .

She admits: “Now, I know it’s a huge undertaking and a lot of people don’t believe it’s possible, but for me, that’s where we should be trying to move forward. “

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‘Beneficial hate speech’

For Tendayi Achiume, a former independent UN human rights expert, more attention needs to be paid to the business models of social media companies. “A lot of times people want to talk about content moderation, what should be allowed on these platforms, without paying much attention to the political economy of these social media platforms. And it turns out that hate speech is beneficial.”

Achiume argues that there is an urgent need to create spaces where people with different opinions can connect with each other. At the same time, she says there needs to be a broader conversation, regarding how people are represented in the media and online.

“The way our world is conceived is really complicated. And I think that dialogues have to be paralleled with all the other ways in which the world and our relationships are built.”

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