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How to deal with hate speech?

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable in the face of hate speech designed to insult, humiliate or intimidate you. You are not responsible for other people’s behavior, but you can help make the environment safer for everyone. There are some things you can do to protect yourself and others when faced with hate speech.

First of all, take care of your online safety. Protecting your data and your social networking accounts makes it more likely that you won’t encounter hate speech.

  • If you use social networks, check your privacy settings. You can set it so that strangers cannot see or comment on the information you post.
  • Before you share your photos on social networks, think carefully about whether you really want to do it. Once a photo has been published, you will no longer be able to control its dissemination, even if you change your mind and delete it. Other people may be able to make a copy and share it further. Like other content on social networks, you can put restrictions on photos to protect your privacy.
  • Keep your accounts secure by creating strong passwords that are not easily guessed by others. Do not use the names of your family members or pets, your date of birth or other easily identifiable passwords. The use of numbers and symbols increases the strength of passwords. Don’t share them with anyone!
  • Don’t share your address and personal phone number in public where strangers can see them.
  • If you encounter aggressive people who insult you or otherwise spread hatred against you, you can block them.
  • We recommend reporting inappropriate comments to the administrators of social networks and news portals.

Think before you comment. Think carefully before posting or commenting on the internet. Although it may sound too simple, try reading your text aloud or showing it to a loved one before publishing. It can help to hear/see your own words from the side. The rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, it’s better not to say it online.

Tips for dealing with hate speech:

Don’t support hate comments on the internet. Do not share or send hateful comments or images (unless you are doing so for information purposes. For example, to message or show your loved ones) and don’t click “like”. If you decide to express your disagreement, do so specifically and clearly, but in an ethical manner that does not offend others.

Important! Please note that sometimes specific messages are used to try to provoke on purpose. You do not have to discuss or take part in a conversation if the interlocutor is abusive, belittling or humiliating you.

Don’t support hate speech in your environment. Hearing hate speech in a live chat can do several things. Choose the method that suits you best.

  • React and express your disapproval. Only do this when you feel safe. You do not have to discuss or continue a conversation with a hostile person who communicates in a disrespectful or insulting manner. Especially if they insult you. Try to speak calmly and respectfully.

Saying nothing often contributes to the maintenance and continuation of hate speech. However, choose a safe way to express your disapproval. Do not openly confront hatred.

  • Explain how you feel. It will be more impactful if you explain why and how hate speech hurts or offends you. If you can, please share real stories.
  • Express your disapproval with a look or facial expression. Sometimes this is much more effective than expressing disapproval in words. Especially if you are in an environment where it would be unsafe or impossible to do so (e.g. a work meeting). Your silent reaction can send a message to others that hate speech is not welcome.
  • Clearly draw personal boundaries. You can say that you do not want to participate further in the conversation if it contains insults, humiliation or other hateful language about you or others.
  • Step out of the conversation.

Report hate to the administrators. Report written hate comments as soon as possible to the administrators of your social networking accounts or news portals. It is important that as few people as possible get to see them. On Facebook, you can use the “hide” feature to hide comments.

If hate comments/messages threaten violence, death or other harm to your health, contact the police. All comments and messages must be preserved as evidence and screenshots should be taken.

Report the hate you are experiencing to the person(s) responsible.

  • If you encounter hate speech at school, university, work or in any other environment, report it to the person(s) responsible: a teacher, administrative staff, supervisor or others. Don’t wait until the situation is out of control – it’s better to report it straight away.
  • If you have the opportunity, you can suggest to your manager that he could organize a training session or workshop at your school/workplace on respectful communication, the harms of hate speech, bullying/mobbing/group psychological oppression and/or discrimination. Such training could be organized by experts from the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson and other human rights organizations working in this field.
  • If you hear hate speech on TV or radio, or at a public event, you can not only report it to the authorities, but also contact the organizers or show hosts in person. Express your disapproval, explain why it offended you, what feelings it aroused, etc.

Tell someone you trust about it. Don’t be alone with your feelings, share your experience with a friend, family member or someone you trust. You can also contact the emotional helplines.

Share your story. If you are safe and feel strong, share your story. True stories about people’s authentic experiences are often the best way to open the eyes of hostile people. Choose a safe environment to do so, and do not confront hate directly. Ask for support and help from people who support you. Telling the story will be made easier by working with pro-human rights media and organizations working in the field.

What should I do if I receive private hate messages?

You certainly don’t have to answer them. Don’t waste your strength and energy. The best thing to do would be to report hate messages to the police. Especially if you are intimidated, threatened with physical reprisals, violence or murder.

Based on:

  • Bates L. Everyday Sexism, Simon & Shuster UK Ltd, 2014.
  • Bates L. Girl Up, Simon & Shuster UK Ltd, 2016.
  • How to Respond to a Racist Comment. In. Reader‘s Digest.
  • Six Steps to Speak Up. In Learningforjustice.org.