In 1997 the Council of Europe defines hate speech as “all forms of expressions that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance”.
Why do we provide you with this definition? Because we believe that the first step towards defeating a certain problem is to pinpoint what that problem is. So now we know what hate speech is, but what does it look like?
The answer is simple. We see it every day. We read about it on social media, we pass by it on the streets. Hate speech is the article you read yesterday about the young man from Iraq, Syria or Egypt, who beat a child on the streets, the article which turns out to be a lie, targeting you as the next victim of its popularization. Hate speech is the man who is offending another person on the streets because of the language he speaks or his skin colour. Hate speech is everywhere. It doesn’t have a day off or a curfew, it goes beyond business hours.
So we now know what it looks like, but why does hate speech exist? It exists because we allow it to exist. It exists because we agree to listen to it, read it and see it everywhere. It exists because we don’t take action.
So how do we stop it? We, from the Sofia Development Association, start from where the modern world meets its fastest development – the internet.
Alongside 7 other organizations from 6 other countries - Libera Università di Lingue e Comunicazione IULM - IUL and Associazione FORMA.Azione from Italy, the Languages Company from the UK, Center for Peace from Croatia, People in Need from the Czech Republic, Asociația Divers from Romania and the Municipality of Agii Anargiri-Kamatero from Greece – and with the financial help of the European Commission we started working on the “Coalition of Positive Messengers to Counter Online Hate Speech” project.
We began our work on 1 October 2016 and we hope to achieve our goals until 30 September 2018.
Our initiative addresses the need for a more effective answer to hate speech from our society. The project focuses on two main goals – establishing a coalition of many people and organizations which works towards demolishing hate speech online and spreading positive messages by creating campaigns aiming towards educating and informing people about what it is like to be an immigrant and the challenges you face when you have very few choices in your life.
Our main goal is to create a working mechanism for pushing back hate speech and stopping xenophobia from developing and spreading in our society.
We also aim towards providing new data about the essence, range and impact of hate speech online, so we can help local and national authorities to develop more effective ways of combating hate speech and encourage communication and tolerance between the European society and the most vulnerable people groups – immigrants and refugees.
So how can YOU help?
Take action when you see a display of xenophobia and lack of tolerance, don’t allow yourself to get used to them. Spread positive messages in your community and together with the people around you create an environment of tolerance and understanding.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/positivemessengers/ and website https://www.positivemessengers.net for more news and information on our campaigns and how you can join our cause.