Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Only a joke? Learning about online cyber-bullying and Hate Speech on a Concordia hosted workshop

The Council of Europe's 'No Hate Speech' campaign aims to raise awareness of the problem of online bullying and Hate Speech. Concordia France recently ran an international workshop in Le Mans, France aimed at training educators and youth workers in methods to teach about this growing problem.

Have you ever been the subject of a 'joke' comment which instead of making you laugh maybe revealed more about the senders prejudices? Have you ever read a Facebook post which you thought was a little close to the bone? Most of us have. Cyberbullying and Hate Speech are new names for old problems. Traditionally intolerance and bullying involved comments thrown across the street or the playground, but today our increasingly online social lives offer new avenues for such comments.

'No Hate Speech' was the topic of a recent workshop organised by Concordia France in Le Mans for educators and youth workers from across Europe. The 'No Hate Speech' movements aims to raise awareness of this growing problem through education and publicity. It was established in 2012 by the Council of Europe. The workshop aimed at giving educators the tools to use with young people to make them aware of their online actions.

Prevention is better than cure.
Could we define key terms like Hate Speech, gender, discrimination, LGBT+, migrant, and refugee? These are words we use everyday but for which tying down a concrete definition is surprisingly difficult without a dictionary. Heated group discussion ensured. What were our personal experiences of discrimination? We identified instances where we had either been perpetrator, witness or victim of Hate comments. Sharing experiences and feeling made us aware of the impact of the problem.

We learnt methods to break down hateful comments to examine their origin and effect. One activity 'the tree of Hate' centred on one example of Hate and in groups we identified the root causes of the comment and what effects it later had. Our group choose the infamous 'Breaking Point' UKIP poster. Was this the result of fear of immigration, loss of border controls, a lack of knowledge of migrants and other faiths, a consequence of welfare cuts? Had it resulted in the EU 'no' vote? Topics for endless discussion.

Had we personally been discriminated against because of our looks, faith, sexuality, origins or even dress? Together we stood in a line, and stepped forward if we could answer no to each statement. It was surprising how many of us were left behind.

Towards the end of the week a workshop was organised for local youths from Le Mans to allow some of us to put our skills into action. A publicity event was organised in Le Mans to engage the local population; this involved handing out compliments from a bucket to passers by, asking people to cite things they loved, and aimed at educating about the project. Another group learnt how to make a video about online bullying.

Taking it forward
The international nature of the week greatly contributed to its success. Attendees from Austria, Albania, Greece and Great Britain all looked at problems with a different perspective. Attitudes to problems like the European migrant crisis are different depending on whether you are a transit country or potential host.

By actually taking part in activities you really learnt how these topics could be taught back in your host country. But perhaps as valuable as the actual training was the chance to engage with others with different background and different ideas. The ultimate take home message was maybe, we are all different but we all have the same feelings. 

Participant in the No Hate Speech Training & International Volunteer with Concordia


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