Online hate speech is a growing problem. People often experience the internet to be a hostile space. Hateful messages are increasingly common on social media. To complement existing initiatives to regulate, monitor or report online hate speech, a more pro-active answer is clearly needed.

SELMA (Social and Emotional Learning for Mutual Awareness) is a two-year project co-funded by the European Commission1 which aims to tackle the problem of online hate speech by promoting mutual awareness, tolerance, and respect.

The overall vision of the SELMA project is captured by its catchphrase: Hacking Hate. It builds upon a Social and Emotional Learning approach to empower young people to become agents of change; it helps them to better understand the phenomenon of online hate; it provides them with tools and strategies to act and make a difference.

"Hacking is any amateur innovation on an existing system, and it is a deeply democratic activity. It's about critical thinking. It's about questioning existing ways of doing things. It's the idea that if you see a problem, you work to fix it, and not just complain about it."
Catherine Bracy, TechEquity Collaborative

In more concrete terms, SELMA will target young people (age 11-16), primarily in schools, but also in the out-of-school communities that impact on their well-being. It will engage them – together with their peers, teachers, parents and other professionals and carers – in a multifaceted learning journey. It will foster a wider dialogue with education stakeholders (including Ministries of Education), civil society organisations and industry. It will take an evidence-based approach to prevent and remediate online hate speech.

Activities include:

  • Empirical research.
  • The co-creation of a SELMA Toolkit.
  • Face-to-face and online training and counselling for young people.
  • Training/briefings to educational staff/teachers and school leaders as well as social workers, parents and other carers, including a Massive Online Learning Course (MOOC).
  • Education Task Force meetings for EU policy makers, Ministries of Education and IT companies to facilitate mutual learning and cooperation, shaping their respective policies, while taking into account the perspective of young people and civil society.
  • The dissemination of outputs, results and lessons learned. A hackathon, an international conference, as well as different online (mini-) campaigns, including a final education/awareness week will ensure cross-European outreach.

These efforts will result in increased awareness, knowledge and understanding of online hate speech and how young people can play an active role to prevent or counter it. SELMA does not intend to police "bad" online behaviour. Rather, it will nurture an environment where young people feel empowered to take action.

Watch this space to see how SELMA will help to hack online hate for good!

1 Under the European Union's Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). More information is available at  http://ec.europa.eu/justice/grants1/programmes-2014-2020/rec/index_en.htm.

This project is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.