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What is hate speech?

Media Production

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Intended Outcomes


  • Create an agreed definition of hate speech relevant to the learners in the group.


  • Share the definition effectively with the immediate community (e.g. school, friends, family).


Remind participants about the exploration and labelling of positive and negative feelings using a quadrant, and the feelings that arise when putting oneself in the position of receiving hate speech comments.

Recognising how we feel about things expressed online is key to understanding how hate speech can affect ourselves and others; the next step is to identify the features of media that constitute hate speech and identify the protected characteristics that are targeted.

The media analysis unit offered participants the opportunity to use a set of given statements and sort these in a number of ways: positive, neutral or negative; legal or illegal; protected characteristics.

Prompt Questions

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

  • What do you think of this definition?
  • Is the definition inclusive enough to cover all hate speech occurrences?
  • Does it mention or include “protected characteristics”?
  • What are the challenges you faced (and overcame) when assembling the jigsaw?
  • What are the challenges in communicating the definition?
  • How does communicating the definition in a different media help to explain what hate speech is?
  • What media production methods can you employ to effectively promote the definition of hate speech?
  • What assessment criteria could you set for the pieces you are producing?

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.”

What is hate speech to us?

Use the provided presentation to help with this activity.

Discuss the definition

  • With the complete definition on the screen, break it down into different sections and discuss each section with participants.

Creating an agreed definition

What does hate speech mean to you? What characteristics are targeted by hate speech?

In the research for the SELMA projects, young people said that hate speech is:

  • Saying bad and degrading things about others.
  • Hating, or speaking offensively to other people online and on social media.

Ask participants to share their experiences of online hate speech. What happened? How did you/they feel? Who was involved? How do they feel now?

(Participants may be more inclined to talk about something that happened “to a friend”, or may prefer to talk about something in the third person. You will need to use your judgement in this situation.)

If participants created definitions in the SEL activity, then you may wish to select some of them and anonymously share these with the remaining participants for discussion alongside the hate speech definitions provided in the activity sheet.

Hold a discussion with the participants about the definitions provided; do they think that they are good?

Once you have explored the various definition of hate speech, collectively draw up your definition. It might be interesting to start by exploring what online hate speech is not. For instance: Online hate speech is not when someone tweets a supportive statement like “you did great work, I’m super proud of you!” or “Online hate speech is not crude or offensive”.

It may be easier to produce an extended definition; one that exemplifies the term and supports everyone to be clear about what online hate speech is. This definition is unlikely to be a single, short sentence.

When you’ve finished, compare the groups definition with your national legal definition.

Online activities

Re-share the definition you agreed with the group, or, if you did not create one, use this one:

The SELMA project defines hate speech as:

“Every form of expression written or said (including text messages, images, music, videos, games, paintings,  symbols, signs, other forms of art), expressed and disseminated by an individual or group of people, through all forms of electronic digital communication such as media, websites, forums, blogs, social media platforms, emails, targeting an individual or group of people based on a core characteristic of them, in particular on their gender or gender identity, race or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or belief, disability, with the intention to spread hate, harass, threaten and provoke directly or indirectly violence against the specific individuals or members of groups within the societies.”

A simplified form is:

“Any online content targeting someone's core characteristics with the purpose of spreading hate, threatening or provoking violence against them.”


Invite the participants to re-create/communicate the definition in a more interesting and engaging manner. They should choose the media that they most enjoy working with from this provided list:

Provide the participants with some time to explore the range of media choices and develop a finalised piece to share with the group.

Ask participants to provide feedback on the completed pieces. You might like to focus on:

  • Does the piece convey the definition?
  • Is the piece interesting and enjoyable to watch/read?
  • What would you like to see improved?

Once participant feedback has been given, provide a further opportunity for participants to refine their work.

Then, discuss with participants how this piece could be promoted to raise awareness of what hate speech is.


Create an agreed definition of hate speech relevant to the students in the group. Share the definition effectively with the immediate community e.g. school; friends; family.


What is hate speech to us?

Create an agreed definition of hate speech relevant to the students in the group.


Definitions of hate speech

Understanding existing definitions of hate speech.