Are my people really using hate speech?

Media Analysis

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The SEL activities supported the learners in identifying the importance of context in framing the emotional response of the viewer. In other words, determining the intended meaning behind the statement and the importance of understanding the surrounding conversations, context and commentary.

This Media analysis unit provides learners with an opportunity to explore hate speech statements, distinguishing fact from opinion, and opinion from hate speech.

Prompt Questions

These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topic in this focus area.

  • Can hate speech be evidence?
  • Is it possible to distinguish between fact and opinion in hate speech?
  • At what point does an observation/opinion become hate speech?

Main Activity

The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:

“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”

Cracking the case of hate

The purpose of this activity is to provide an opportunity for the learners to distinguish between “real” clues to an event and “hate speech” comments about an event. This is designed to help them see that online hate speech can sometimes occur in a form that appears to be a genuine message, but is in reality hate speech.

Explain that the learners will be reviewing the case file of a recent incident. Their task is to identify what happened and who was involved by reviewing the information available. In addition to the crime explicitly referenced (the fight resulting in physical assault), their job is also to decide if any other hate crimes have been committed; either by other people present at the mall or those involved in the YouTube comments.

Split the group into smaller groups where possible - around four learners per group is ideal. Provide copies of the “case file” for the learners to use. To reduce the environmental impact, you may wish to share this with them electronically.

Ask the groups to review the information in the case file and ask any initial questions they may have.

Explain that the first job in a case is screening and filtering - they need to identify the facts of the case, not the opinions. Then allow time for the learners to write down notes from each statement under the headings of “fact” and “opinion”. The second task is to identify any instances of hate speech across any of the statements and evidence in the case file, and who was responsible for these instances.

There is likely to be a lot of discussion in this activity; some of the witness statements and YouTube comments contain clear hate speech, while others less so. This is the real crux of the activity… an opportunity to try and distinguish between hate speech, irrelevant comments and useful information. You may need to support the learners, depending on their age, to understand the differences.

After allowing learners to work in small groups, bring them back together as a whole group and discuss:

  • Who were the main players in the case?
  • Were any crimes committed?
  • Was there any information you needed to filter out?
  • Did any people use any hate speech?
  • Were there words or phrases that could be mean different things in different contexts? Do these contribute to hate speech?
  • What characteristics were targeted by the comments? (e.g. race, religion, gender, etc.)

Support the learners to correctly identify the hate speech - revisit the comments together as necessary to achieve this. Encourage learners to reflect on the comments that don’t explicitly appear to be hate speech - do these create a climate that allows hate speech to occur?


Depending on the learners you’re working with, you may wish to set them the following task. This will generate hate speech examples that you may find useful in further work, but may also increase their exposure to the content.

As an out-of-school activity, ask learners to explore hate speech comments found in YouTube videos. They may recall having visited a video page recently and read a horrible comment. Ask them to collect examples in a document and bring back to the group to share and discuss.

To help learners successfully complete this task, and to help minimise the risk to themselves and others, the following actions are recommended:

  1. Inform parents/carers about the task prior to giving it to the learners, share the agreed task limits with them and provide contact details for someone at the school they can speak to if they have any questions or concerns.
  2. Ensure the task is clearly explained to learners and provide them with opportunity to ask questions about the task before they complete it.
  3. Remind learners of who they can speak to in school if they are worried about anything they experience online.
  4. Set some clear limits around the purpose of the task:
    • Time limit e.g. 30 minutes to spend looking through YouTube comments.
    • Source - only public comments on YouTube.
    • Evidence - how should they record these comments (e.g. screenshot, write down the comment only)?
    • Engagement - for the purposes of this task, you may wish to recommend to learners that they do not engage with the user who has posted hateful content. However, they could report the comment to YouTube:
  5. Ensure that you follow relevant safeguarding procedures for recording and taking action on any disclosures or issues that may arise from this task.

Outcome Criteria

  • Able to identify how comments may target protected characteristics.
  • Understand how individual comments may lead to a culture of hate.


Identify how comments may target protected characteristics. Understand how individual comments may lead to a culture of hate.


Cracking the case of hate

Identifying how comments and actions may target protected characteristics.


Løs en sag om hadforbrydelse

Identifying how comments and actions may target protected characteristics.


Löse den Hass-Fall

Identifying how comments and actions may target protected characteristics.


Διαλύοντας την υπόθεση του μίσους

Identifying how comments and actions may target protected characteristics.