How to Challenge Online Hate

What is Counter Narrative or Counter Messaging and how do I use it?

Imagine logging onto your social media account one day and seeing messages, videos and memes about your sexual orientation, race, gender identity, religion or disability. The posts are offensive and other people have made hateful comments on the post. Seeing this may make you feel alone, sad, angry or depressed that people are saying those things. You may feel scared that this is how everyone feels and feel unsafe or ashamed to belong to the targeted identity group.

Now imagine how you would feel if someone commented that they didn’t agree with the post and found it offensive, challenged what was being said or disproved the lies. You are no longer alone and can see that this is not how everyone feels. You may feel supported by others and proud of who you are.

Counter narrative or counter messaging provides people with a chance to challenge offensive, fake or negative information they see online and support people who may be affected by what they have seen. ‘Narrative’ is just another term for a ‘story’, so a ‘counter narrative’ is an alternative story, aimed at countering and providing a different viewpoint to a negative, ‘hateful’ story or message. You are likely to find opportunities to use counter narrative on most social media platforms in the comments section. When considering the use of counter narrative you should think carefully about how to engage safely.

Below are links to some advice about how to stay safe online and ways to engage in counter narrative or counter messaging.

www.getsafeonline.org is a website giving detailed explanations of how to stay safe on various platforms, and how to use electronic communication devices safely. This link takes you to the online hate section and explains what to do if you see online hate speech.

The www.getthetrollsout link takes you to a straightforward, no nonsense guide to stopping hate on Twitter, for pupils and teachers.

WeCan! Is a manual on countering hate speech online. A great resource for teachers and older students.

Below are some scenarios that explore the power of hate speech online and the effect that taking positive action to counteract it can have. School teachers may wish to use these scenarios to start discussions around the topic of discrimination, online behaviour and social responsibility.

Click on the images below to open each story:

It is important to think carefully when considering posting counter-narrative. Your personal safety is of utmost importance. Here are some tips for you to follow:

Check your privacy settings – do not allow your personal information to be public. Only allow your friends to see your posts, photos, and details such as your school, where you live, etc.

Think before you post – will the message worsen the situation by angering the person posting the Hate Speech?

Consider blocking offensive posts so you don’t see them – but remember they can still be seen by others and cause harm, so should be reported to the platform moderators.

www.bullying.co.uk has some excellent advice for young people on staying safe online, particularly on how to report harmful content to particular sites such as Facebook, Instagram and others

www.saferinternet.org.uk gives advice to teachers and schools on curriculum planning and policy as well as resources for use in the classroom.

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Click here to return to our Young People’s Online Hate Resource Hub