New Strategies to Counter Antisemitism in Digital Age

Date: 9-11 May 2017

Country: France

18403887_10156292896522715_1393057572403131579_oAntisemitic hate speech in Europe today is taking on new forms, new messages and is on the rise. Yet, antisemitic hate speech is increasingly less recognised and denounced as hate speech.

The internet has provided new platforms for antisemitic hate speech to evolve and spread, commenting on present day challenges with quick fix solutions that single out minority groups as the problem to be dealt with. The spread of such rhetoric online allow for stereotypes to reach a high number of people and vast geographical areas. Antisemitic hate speech might not have a long tradition in some communities in Europe but with the internet dangerous stereotypes are allowed to spread if gone unchecked.

On 9-11 May 2017 in Strasbourg, the No Hate Speech Movement (NHSM) of Council of Europe organised the ‘Seminar on Combating Antisemitic Hate Speech’ to review together with campaign partners, young activists, and practitioners the work on combatting antisemitic hate speech and identify ways to strengthen it.

Giulia Dessì of the Media Diversity Institute – campaign partner of NHSM – led an interactive working group to present the Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism and Stopping Hate: How to Counter Hate Speech on Twitter. From victim-abuser reversal to plural personal pronouns (“they” and “we”) used for divisive and offensive remarks, participants discussed examples of antisemitic speech. They deconstructed the manipulative language and presented their views on effective ways to counter hate speech online.

Responses such as pointing out to someone that he/she is racist, being confrontational, sarcastic or patronising can be counterproductive and fuel hate speech. Instead, being polite and suggesting some links for further reading to someone who has just expressed antisemitic views might mitigate a heated discussion and change someone’s point of view. Giving facts-based counter narratives – participants agreed – tends to be more efficient than other approaches.

As the We CAN! manual by the Council of Europe explains, counter and alternative narratives are tools to change and undermine hateful or extremist narratives and reinforce human rights-based narratives. They do so by challenging negative stereotypes, by discrediting violent messages, for example, through humour or other methods to show that another interpretation of reality exists.

Throughout the seminar, human rights activists discussed good practices and new ideas to counter antisemitic hate speech. While the importance of talking to people face-to-face (media literacy, youth camps, peer-to-peer education, alternative forms of punishment) was stressed, civil society organisations today should also make the most of technology (GIFs, memes, SEO, bots, advertising) to extend their outreach.

Following up to the seminar, on 9 November 2017, MDI will join the NHSM and the campaign partners in the Action Day Against Antisemitic Hate Speech to raise awareness of new faces of antisemitic hate speech in Europe and how to address it through education and joint action.