The SEL activities helped the learners identify key strengths and weaknesses in affecting change. Learners had an opportunity to identify those changemakers they know and what characteristics they have that make them effective. The learners were encouraged to apply this to themselves and look for ways to improve.
In this Media analysis unit, learners have the opportunity to explore how messages are spread online by mobilising an “army of haters” and then considering how this can be “flipped” to mobilise an army of activists.
These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topic in this focus area.
- Are you aware of any public figures who promote prejudiced, hateful or extreme views?
- How do these individuals get their message out to others (online and offline)?
- What characteristics do they possess that make them stand out?
- Who is their target audience?
- What have you seen happen as a result of that public figure spreading hateful messages?
- Why do you think others join in/support them?
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.”
Army of haters
Explain the game Top Trumps to the learners. The full version of Top trumps is a card game for any number of players. The object of the game is to win all the cards in the pack. Players select a 'statistic' from their top card the other players read out their statistic and the player with the 'best' or 'highest' score wins each card from the players. Play continues until one player has all the cards.
This version of the game is a specially designed version for 2-4 players.
(Note: the cards will need to be printed, cut out, folded and glued before use.)
To start the game, shuffle and deal all the cards face down. Each player holds their cards so that they can see the top card only.
The player to the dealer’s left starts by reading out a category from the top card (e.g. Reputation, value 10). The other players then read out the same category from their cards. The one with the 'best' or 'highest' value wins, and that player scores a point. If two or more cards share the top value then both players score a point.
After each round, players must place their card face down in the middle (along with other players’ cards from that round). These cards should be mixed up and then players should draw one card again and place it at the back of their own deck of cards.
The winner is the player who scores the most points over the rounds. There is no fixed limit to the number of rounds that can be played so a limit should be decided based on the time available (e.g. 10 rounds).
Provide each group of learners with a set of Top Trumps cards and allow them to play.
After the learners have played a few times, ask them if there is a card that always beats the rest? If they are not sure, you could take a set of cards and lay them out with the learners. Identify that it is the Ronnie Jackson card that is the “best card”; it has equal or better stats in almost all areas.
Analyse the card with the learners. What makes it so good? Are there any weaknesses? What about the other cards? Do they have any useful qualities about them?
Allow the learners time to explore all the cards, identifying what’s good/not so good about each character.
Now focus the learners on the activity.
Explain that this activity was designed to get them “into the head of a hater”. Being able to understand why and how a hate speech message is created and spread will help them also understand how they can use counter-narratives to reduce the spread of that same message.
Explain that you’d like the learners to decide which of the Top Trumps characters they would select if they wanted to amplify a hate speech message.
You may wish to give learners some examples of hate speech messages to help them decide which character would meet the aims of amplifying the message.
Some examples could include:
- Blaming immigrants for a lack of jobs in the character’s country.
- Accusing members of the LGBTQ community of blasphemy.
- Making controversial jokes about people with physical disabilities.
- Encouraging others to boycott using shops/services operated by Muslims.
- Attacking another public figure because they are black.
- Organising a protest against equal rights for women.
Allow time for the learners to make their selection then bring the group back together and invite learners to share their selected character and explain why they chose them.
Once enough learners have shared their decisions, ask the group what it is about the characters that meant they were selected? In other words, what are the key characteristics of someone that can promote hate speech?
Using the criteria and characters identified in the main activity, learners should answer the following questions:
- Who do they want to target?
- How will they get their message out?
- Which is the character most likely to assist them?
- Can they use peer-to-peer activities or word of mouth to promote their message?
- What online/offline tools can they make use of?
- What channels will they promote their message on?
Provide time for the learners to develop their plan.
Learners can then share their plans with each other or the group for feedback.
As the facilitator, be sure to move around and support those who may be struggling or need directing.
It may be possible that some learners will not want to consider how to promote a hate message and may, as a consequence, find this activity difficult. It is important that they understand that this is an exercise and that you will help them to understand what the learning is after the activity.
Draw the group back together and remind them that this activity was designed to get them “into the head of a hater”. Being able to understand why and how a hate speech message is created and spread will help them also understand how they can use counter-narratives to reduce the spread of that same message.
Similarly, many of the strategies used to amplify a hate message can be also used to amplify positive messages of support and understanding - the skills and features are transferable (e.g. visibility, strength of sentiment, reputation, use of different platforms).
Identify the key characteristics of online hate speech creators and promoters. Demonstrate an understanding of how hate speech spreads online.