Hate speech in online environment

Why is it important to cope with hate speech online?

The time, which young people spend online today equates and even exceeds the time they spend communicating face to face. Therefore, it is necessary to pay special attention to hate speech in the online space.

As we have already pointed out in the article explaining the nature of hate speech, it is a problem, which can escalate into a serious violation of human rights. Hate speech online is not less serious problem, but it is more difficult to be defined and grounded. Unfortunately, most online users underestimate it, and expressions in words and images online are considered less influential than in offline environment. However, if not thwarted in time, hate speech online spreads offline, inciting further interpersonal tension and various forms of discrimination and abuse. The possibility of hatred spreading rapidly in the virtual world increases its potential harm to our privacy outside of it.

Hate speech is a symptom of social problems that go much deeper than just discriminatory statements posted online. Hate speech online is a reflection of what is happening in the physical world, although the perpetrators are not necessarily part of some radical group.

Hate speech online is much more than just “words.” The Internet allows us to communicate quickly and in numerous ways, including through social media, online gaming and last but not least – in anonymous forums. Anonymity, in turn, encourages people not to censor their statements. Online hatred can be expressed through videos and photos, as well as through its more familiar text form. Visual or multimedia forms can often have an even greater impact on people’s conscious and subconscious attitudes.

Hatred is usually directed at specific individuals and groups. Online hatred, when targeted at groups, tends to target those who are already vulnerable in some way – refugees, religious minorities or people with disabilities, for example. Recently, however, individuals have been the main targets of online hate attacks. Sometimes it is even disastrous – similar to cyberbullying, which has led to suicide in a number of documented cases. Hate speech also threatens the safety and self-confidence of anyone identified as its victim.

The Internet is much more difficult to be controlled. At the same time, hate speech online is tolerated more than offline and is much less subject to control. It is much easier, and less risky, for the so-called “haters” to abuse online instead in the physical world, because in that way they can hide behind the mask of anonymity.

The attitudes and social tensions that fuel online hatred lie deep in society and are generally the same as those that lead to hate speech offline.
This means that by addressing hatred online, at least some of the instances of offline hate can be overcome.

Increasing online activity is an inherent feature of modern society – but due to its novelty, it should not be examined as a realm that excludes the usual norms of human behaviour. People’s virtual existence is strongly related to their physical existence and no less real than it is. The two areas of our lives are connected: the virtual world has simply become an important part of the real world. Online hatred often has consequences in our daily lives: because people, feelings, experiences and dynamics are the same – both online and offline.

BOOKMARKS. A Manual for Combating Hate Speech Online through Human Rights Education. 2016. (Revised edition, with the inclusion of the Guide to Human Rights for Internet Users). Council of Europe. Authors: Keen, E Georgescu, M .: https://rm.coe.int/090000168065dac7