Fighting Online Hate-Speech

We have all been there. You are happily scrolling through your Facebook feed and all of a sudden, there it is, hate-speech. You close your eyes and hope that it will go away. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. You open your eyes and you’re shocked; what you see in front of you in an offense to the very values that define your identity. You could scream at the screen, or better yet, let this person know what you think and reply NO! YOU’RE WRONG! Ideally, that would be the end of it and no one would ever post hate-speech on social media ever again, but the world we live in is far from perfect.

Seeing online hate-speech is an exhausting experience even before you make your next keystroke. You have to consider the possible pros and cons to any course of action you can take.

Possible courses of action include:

  1. Burying your head in the sand and crying for humanity.
  2. Continuing to scroll. Don’t feed the trolls.
  3. Eagerly searching through the comments in hopes that someone else has already addressed it.
  4. Approaching the person about their views and laying all of your advocacy knowledge on the table.
  5. Finding a factual, reputable source to disprove whatever claim they are making.

You have probably tried one or more of these in varying combinations. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to addressing online hate-speech. This summer, I am creating a website that indexes reputable sources to address hate-speech and misinformation online quickly, effectively, and confidently.

I have chosen to take this course of action because I have been in multiple drawn-out arguments over the internet and sometimes there is no amount of knowledge, eloquence, or rhetoric that can change a person’s mind.  For the last few months, I have been scrolling past hateful comments because it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting to invest in a conversation and have it devolve into name-calling and grammar politics. Posting the link to an article or fact allows me to engage in a productive way and then disengage from the situation without opening the topic for debate.

At this point you are probably asking yourself why I would even bother creating a site if the sources will likely be ignored and brushed off as another fact-less ideological fluff piece. My goals are simple; they include:

  • Making connections with advocacy organizations in Edmonton to discuss the role of online advocates in the work they are doing.
  • Expanding my knowledge of the challenges of advocacy on the internet.
  • Exploring existing solutions to hate-speech and misinformation.
  • Contributing to a culture of change where online hate-speech and misinformation is no longer widely ignored.
  • Creating an index of reputable sources to aid other advocates in their endeavors to combat online hate-speech and misinformation.

Please follow along as I post blog updates on what I am learning and how you can get involved in online advocacy!


Caitlin Thompson

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