Taking action against Hate Speech through Counter and Alternative Narratives

The manual We CAN! (2017 Revised Edition) proposes communicative and educational approaches and tools for young people and other human rights activists: you can develop through them your own counter and alternative narratives = CAN to undermine hate speech and promote human rights. This toolkit focuses on combating hate speech in online environments.

The manual is designed for working with young people aged 13 and over. Based on the principles of human rights education and youth participation, We CAN! complements the manual BOOKMARKS as a resource for combating hate speech online through human rights education.

How often have you heard, “We need a more compelling story”; “What is being told here?”; “Their story is populist and reinforces people’s fears?” Similar to other notions of “fashionable”, the term “story” (or “narrative”, “suitable for description” from Late Latin narratvus, Editor’s note) is used (and misunderstood and misused at the same time) in so many different contexts, with so many different nuances that the meaning becomes vague or suspiciously ambiguous. Usually “narrative” is synonymous with “story”. Yet the narrative is more than just a story, whether real or fictional. This manual examines those stories that are shared by groups and that contain beliefs and interpretations of events as well as the way that reality works. And these interpretations or collectively shared stories help us determine the way we live together. Do the stories matter so much? We often hear that actions are important, not words. So why do we need to talk about stories?


Stories are important because they influence the way that people think. They serve as a reference point for their decisions and actions. If, for example, people were persuaded to think that a particular group in society is threatening for them, they would be willing to support security measures in order to prevent the group from harming them.

Facing hate stories online is not an easy task for human rights defenders, politicians and educators. For example, although the assumption that “migrants steal our jobs” is in fact discredited by countless academic and statistical surveys and economic analyses, this notion prevails among many. Although proven a number of times to be wrong, this argument still fuels xenophobic speech. It is used to justify discriminatory policies and to incite action against migrants, refugees and those who support them. Stories are important because they form actions (or inactions).

*We CAN! is available online in English and French versions (Alternatives) on links below:

• Council of Europe. Manuals and Handbooks. Council of Europe – official website: https://www.coe.int/en/web/youth/manuals-and-handbooks
• Agata de Latour, Nina Perger, Ron Salaj, Claudio Tocchi & Paloma Viejo Otero. 2017. We CAN! Taking Action against Hate Speech through Counter and Alternative Narratives. (Revised edition): https://rm.coe.int/wecan-eng-final-23052017-web/168071ba08