The SEL activities helped the learners identify the range of emotions that may be present in different communities (both online and offline), including communities they belong to. They had opportunity to explain why those emotions might be present, and how those emotions may influence the actions/responses of the group when encountering hate speech.
In the Media analysis unit, learners considered how online environments can influence the messages you see and the decisions made by online groups. They researched the concepts of filter bubbles and echo chambers to understand how these phenomenon relate to the formation and amplification of hate speech online.
This Media production unit focuses on how to engage with two opposing groups/communities (or groups that are in conflict in some way) and develop materials or activities that helps these groups connect with one another and identify their similarities.
These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topic in this focus area.
- In society, which groups do you know of that are in conflict/opposition?
- Why do you think these groups oppose each other?
- What makes these groups different?
- What similarities do these groups share?
- How could you make these groups aware of their similarities?
- Can you think of a common goal for these groups?
- How could you persuade these groups to work together to meet this common goal?
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.”
Using the slides provided, introduce a real life example of how conflict between two groups can lead to generalisations based on prejudice, hardening of stereotypes and hate speech.
The example involves the reaction of a small village community in the UK after a group of Irish travellers moved into the area for several days to camp in a nearby public park. During their time there, this particular group displayed a high level of anti-social behaviour by intimidating local residents, shoplifting from local businesses, and causing damage to land and public property through fly tipping.
This behaviour was universally condemned by local residents and many took to a Facebook group throughout the duration of the group’s visit to voice their thoughts and concerns. While most of the comments made were directed solely at the behaviour of the traveller group in question, a minority of users used degrading language which was directed at the group in general and the traveller community in general. Some of these were positively challenged but, equally, many went unchallenged. Most of the posts from that period were still available to view online over six months later; the administrator(s) of the group did not delete them.
Show learners the slide containing a selection of the negative comments shared in the Facebook group. (Note: swearing has been blanked out and identifiable names of people and places has been omitted, some spelling has been corrected in order to ensure the intended meaning of the message is clear.)
- Which (if any of these) are hate speech?
- What action would you take if you saw this content online?
- How might you respond to some of these comments?
A slide is also included containing positive responses from the community about travellers.
- Do you think these responses were effective?
- How would you change/improve these responses?
- Have any users apologised/expressed regret or remorse for saying hateful things? Why/why not?
Explain to learners that these reactions occurred over a short period of time (3-4 days).
- Do you think local residents said these things in person to the traveller group? Why/why not?
- Is the traveller group represented by someone in these online discussions? (e.g. Do they have a voice?)
- How do you think the traveller group might react if they saw these messages?
- How do you think local residents might have behaved if the traveller group had stayed in the area for longer? (e.g. several months.)
- How do you think the traveller group may have behaved if they had stayed longer?
Explain to learners this example can highlight how two communities can view each other as very different, and behave towards members of the opposite community in a very different way to the way they would behave to members of their own community. Finding common ground and mutual respect can be exceedingly challenging (particularly in cases such as the above) but it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t try.
However, building bridges between communities/groups will only be successful if both parties are willing, and a powerful way to bring people together is to recognise similarities and work towards common goals.
This task provides opportunity for learners to think creatively to plan or design an online activity or space (e.g. a game, public message forum, etc.) that would encourage members from two groups to work together and communicate; for example, a game that encourages all members to work towards a common goal and recognise their similarities. Ideally, the activity should highlight the benefits of cooperation across groups as being greater than working purely within your own group.
It is recommended that this exercise is a conceptual one; you must use your professional judgement to decide if any of the planned activities that learners develop would be suitable to actually create/deliver (e.g. that the activity would engage the target groups and that the activity minimises the risk of harm to either group or the learners - for example, the activity does not give the opportunity for either group to act in a way that could harm the other group, or harm the learners.)
This activity draws inspiration from game theory; using rules around gain/loss in a game to guide players to work cooperatively to achieve the most positive mutual outcome. In particular, the concept of “tit for tat” that evolved from this is useful to consider as it brings in forgiveness as a key factor in enabling cooperation. A useful article on these principles can be found on the Psychology Today website.
Note that while “tit for tat” provides the most ethical and logical way for two parties to both benefit, it doesn’t have any bearing on whether that benefit is “good” or “bad” (e.g. two people working together to fix a car versus two people working together to rob a bank). It also doesn’t ensure one party is cooperating because they care about the other party, but it’s a good place to start, and opens up lines of communication that would previously have been closed. If the learners’ planned activity can use those lines of communication to explore similarities, then there is greater chance of building trust, respect and empathy.
Learners need to consider the following aspects when planning their activity:
- Which groups will you invite to take part? (For the purposes of this activity, it is easier to choose two opposing groups who you think would be open to participation.)
- What activity could you ask them to do/complete? (Ideally it should be a shorter task that isn’t biased towards one group’s skills, education or understanding.)
- What rules will you put in place to encourage cooperation? (In game theory, you both lose if no one acts, you win everything if you do the work and the other person does nothing, or you both win if you cooperate.)
- How can you ensure that one group has to interact with the other group? (For example, design a game where you can only complete the task with the help of someone from the opposite group.)
- How can you encourage the groups to explore their similarities? (For example, adding aspects to a game/task where a member of one group has to work with a member of another group with which they have something in common - this could be as simple as being the same age or gender, or related to life and experiences such as the same number of pets, same number of letters in their first name, same favourite sports team, similar taste in food/music/fashion, and so on.)
Encourage learners to share their plans/designs. If more time is available, they may wish to develop their ideas further by creating a simple online game, website or app to showcase their concept.
Creating anything that can mediate between two opposing groups to encourage them to communicate or work together is a massive success! Be sure to praise learners for their efforts. You should also remind those who find this activity challenging that, across history and the world, there are plenty of examples of where two groups haven’t been able to overcome their differences. Therefore no one is expecting them to solve a problem that has existed between humans for thousands of years!
Understand how principles of game theory can be used to encourage groups to work together. Create opportunities for opposing groups to explore their similarities.