Online hate damages social debate and interactions

As part of their activities, the Dutch Safer Internet Centre recently held a session reflecting on the real-life implications of online hate. Here is a summary of the debate and its conclusions. 

Date 2023-03-08 Author Dutch Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic hate speech, media literacy/education Audience media specialist, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals
A man holding a pen discussing with a woman in front of a laptop

As a spokesperson for Vote for a Woman, an online hate expert, and a young woman of colour, Devika Partiman oftentimes faces online and offline threats and harassment. Because this behaviour is not punishable, she has felt powerless and very scared in the past, but Devika is now using her experiences and the problems encountered by other female politicians to initiate systemic change. For example, she organised the congress (Un)safe in politics, from which a working group with the major national political parties emerged.   

Mariëtte van Huijstee (Rathenau Instituut) discussed the mechanisms behind online hate. Online hate – hate speech, discrimination, threats and intimidation – is one of the six forms of harmful behaviour online, according to Rathenau's Ontspoord gedrag report. It targets a (representative of) a group rather than an individual and is influenced by internet dynamics such as the ease of finding (a large group of) like-minded people, anonymity, no human interaction (you don't see how your message arrives) and algorithms that magnify and spread online hate. Mariëtte mentioned three courses of action for politics and business:   

  • Ensure implementation of the Digital Services Act and think about enforcement and monitoring, including pre-emptive measures for real-time situations such as the metaverse. 
  • Conduct public debate and stimulate pro-social behaviour. For more insights on this, see also the campaign from bystander to upstander of Network Media Literacy.  
  • Identify the risks of your product, make a plan for monitoring and be accountable for it.  

Kim Kahn of DeGoedeZaak talked about the First aid against online hate toolkit they developed with support from SIDN Fund. Online hate is widespread among politicians, scientists, journalists and individuals who engage in online debate, particularly among women and people of colour. Their research found that it is often organised. In addition to insecurity, it creates a sense of self-censorship, which distorts social debate. The toolkit offers tools, concrete tips and stories of experience. DeGoedeZaak is currently working with the Ministry of the Interior to further develop the toolkit.   

Find out more about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.     

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