• Website

    These cookies are strictly necessary to enable you to move about the site or to perform functions you have requested

    PHPSESSIDStores a unique session ID which references data held on our server about your session, such as login information[Not Set]
    cookieconsentStores the cookie preferences you select here[Not Set]
  • Allows us to improve your experience by collecting anonymous usage data

    _gaAn anonymous unique ID assiged to your browser for Google Analytics tracking[Not Set]
    _gidAn anonymous unique ID assiged to your browser session for Google Analytics tracking[Not Set]
    _gatA counter that is used to throttle the request rate to Google Analytics[Not Set]

What is hate speech?

Social and Emotional Learning

  • Back
  • Prev
  • Next
  • Sections



Warm-up activity

This warm-up activity develops the SEL focus around self awareness. It begins by exploring positive and negative emotions, looking into how emotions may influence behaviour, and developing an initial vocabulary to describe and label emotions.

A well-developed emotional vocabulary is essential when describing how examples of hate speech might make you feel.

The activity does not directly link to the hate speech theme, but builds a foundation for later activities.

Main activity

Given the national variation in hate speech laws, it can be difficult to set one, European definition. This activity, therefore, guides you through the process of:

  • placing hate speech in context.
  • identifying and ranking the features of hate speech in terms of severity.
  • using your understanding of hate speech to create your own working definition.

Recognising what constitutes hate speech and making judgments on the characteristics based on how they make you feel are key steps to understanding what hate speech is.

Prompt Questions

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

  • What things online make you happy/feel positive?
  • What things online make you feel upset/worried/sad/negative?
  • What things online would you consider hateful?
    • Why?
  • What do you think hate speech is?
    • Who is it targeted at?
    • Why might people behave in this way?
    • How does it make you feel?
    • How does it make the person/people targeted feel?
    • How might it make the perpetrator feel?
    • Do some forms of hate speech affect you more than others? Why?
    • Is something still considered hate speech if the intended target isn’t affected by it? Why/why not?
  • Is there a difference between being hateful/hurtful and hate speech online?
    • Why?
  • Is there content online that can be misunderstood? (e.g. satire, parodies, irony, sarcasm, in-jokes, etc.)
    • How do you decide if this type of content is hate speech?
    • Can you always tell?

Warm Up 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.”

Naming and sorting emotions

When people ask us how we are, what is the most common response? “I’m fine!”

It doesn’t help the other person understand how you are really feeling. It is often hard to find the right words to describe how we are feeling or how something makes us feel, how intense that feeling is, and the effect it is having on our behaviour.

This warm-up exercise expands the range of words used to describe our own emotions and provide a way to rate how bad/good/intense that emotion might be. This work is based on some of the fundamental principles established by the RULER programme for SEL developed by the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence.

Introduce the quadrant contained in the slides and explain how the principles work; it can be described as a graph with its origin at the centre:

  • Red is high energy negative.
  • Yellow is high energy positive.
  • Blue is low energy negative.
  • Green is low energy positive.

Use the slide with the blank quadrant to estimate where each emotion word might fit on the grid. (You may want to use dictionaries to explain some of the more complex words or even adapt some of the words to fit your language, context or culture).

The final slide shows a RULER version of where the words fit. Use this and discuss to what extent the learner’s versions match.

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.”

Matching emotions to hate speech

Xorg has just arrived from the planet Xenovia and has just created a new social media account. After introducing himself and posting a profile picture, he received a lot of messages some of which have made him quite upset. This is what he received:

  • Pleased to meet you, glad you made the journey.
  • You’ve come here with your three eyes and taken our jobs.
  • OMG! You’re green, that’s GROSS.
  • You’re here but you can’t even speak our language, make an effort.
  • Why don’t you stick to your own kind?
  • Are your kids as ugly as you?
  • **** off back to where you came from!
  • It’s aliens like you that are ruining our country.
  • I’m gonna cum round your house and ruin you.
  • I hope you get ill, and die.
  • I’m gonna cum round ur house, tie you up and beat you till you die.
  • #XenoviansOut
  • Why do Xenovians always come to our country - Go Home!
  • Xenovians are dogs.
  • Xorg go home!
  • How many aliens does it take to change a lightbulb? None, they just ***** glow.
  • **** you, you ***** ****** ****** *****
  • I hate all Xenovians.
  • Your mum stinks, bet she eats slime for breakfast.
  • I thought the government prevents you guys from coming here.
  • Welcome Xorg, So when are you leaving?
  • Oh it’s lovely to see people like you really trying to be one of us...
  • You’re not going anywhere near my daughter, or my son…
  • Will you be my friend?
  • We love Xenovians!
  • You are the best thing that has ever happened to the human race!

These may look humorous, but take some time to put yourself in Xorg’s position:

  • What would you do?
  • How would you feel?
  • How might you respond?
  • Who would you go to?

Use the slides to help you with this activity.

Divide the group of young people into pairs/small groups and give each group a quadrant and the statement bank.

Using the quadrant from the warm-up activity, ask participants to place each statement in the quadrant to match with what you think its emotional characteristics are.

For example: I hate all Xenovians might be medium energy negative (red) while Will you be my friend? could be low energy positive (green).

Once completed, allow each pair the opportunity to share and discuss thoughts with the wider group and reflect.

Next use the provided emotion word bank to attach a feeling to each statement in the quadrant.

Ask groups to feedback on their quadrants; is there any agreement across the groups as to which emotions some of the statements evoked?

Ask groups to explain the features of that content that evoked stronger emotions (e.g. it targeted a protected characteristic group, it intended to cause offense, it threatened physical violence, and so on).


  • Pick some of the statements that provoked stronger reactions from participants.
  • Challenge participants to think up ways they could change the statements to move to the opposite quadrant. (This activity may provoke some entertaining exchanges from participants which should be encouraged).
  • Share some of the more successful proposals and present these to the group for discussion.
  • Do the changes successfully alter the feeling of the statement?


Recognise hate speech, why it is hurtful and how it may make the recipient feel. Recognise ways in which hate speech can be made less offensive.


Naming and Sorting Emotions

Recognise hate speech, why it is hurtful and how it may make the recipient feel.


Matching emotions to hate speech

Recognise ways in which hate speech can be made less offensive.