How does hate speech make me feel?


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Why this theme?

The creation and promotion of hate speech online is often likely to evoke strong emotions in all involved - the creator/promoter, the intended target group/individual and the wider audience who come into contact with this content. This theme aims to explore the emotions behind the creation/promotion of hate speech and the emotions felt by those who experience it. Recognising these emotions provides opportunity for developing strategies to regulate them, which can lead to more positive management of hate speech incidents.

Research Evidence

[Young people] are at the same time a high risk group regarding cyberdangers because of the fact that they are less experienced although very active users (Keipe et al. 2016). Additionally, research has shown that, in Europe, children living in countries with more freedom of speech will have more chances to witness or be victims of hate speech online compared to those with lower freedoms of speech (Oksanen,2015).

Young people also try to shape their social identity. In the social media era, social media are important tools for this. The interaction through social media, the peer recognition, the feeling of belonging in a group makes them more enthusiastic when using the internet.

Identifying common characteristics of the perpetrators as risk factors for propagating hate speech is an important aspect of prevention strategies. It has been found that feelings about oneself are correlated with racial feelings; if someone feels threatened, then he/she is more likely to judge a person from an ethnic minority more harshly. On the contrary, if someone feels safe and affirmed with oneself, discrimination feelings diminish (Fein and Spenser, 1997, Shapiro et al., 2010). Because of online hate speech’s special features, lonely or just curious people may become attracted to it.

Victims of (online) hate speech show low self esteem; their human dignity is violated (ECRI Rec (2016)15) as feelings about oneself are linked to seeing oneself as good and appropriate, and knowing that one is living in accordance with cultural norms (White and Crandal, 2017). Hate online causes a great amount of emotional distress and anxiety (Awan 2014), diminished levels of trust, anger and even violence. Because of this, victims often exhibit lower self-esteem, raised fear of attack, leading to victims of hate speech often becoming isolated (FRA 2013a).

Intended Outcomes

  • Effectively communicating how hate speech makes you feel.
  • Explore (or be exposed to) a range of strategies to manage/regulate your emotional state.
  • Identify opportunities to use metacognition to allow space for those strategies to be effective (match the right strategies to the right moment for the outcome you want).

Prompt Questions

These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topics in this theme.

  • What emotions do you feel when you encounter hate speech online?
  • Do these emotions differ depending on how you experience it?
  • Do these emotions differ depending on whether you are the intended target?
  • What strategies do you use to regulate the emotions you feel when encountering hate speech?