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Working with online stakeholders

Social and Emotional Learning

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Overview

These SEL activities help the learners self identify the key qualities required for different roles to effectively campaign and engage with online stakeholders. They will also consider the importance of empathy in these interactions, recognising that online services are not just run by technology but also by people, and that suitable engagement with those people is key to having your voice heard and taken seriously.

Prompt Questions

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

  • What do the terms activism, education and advocacy mean?
  • What characteristics/qualities does an activist/educator/advocate possess?
  • What does empathy mean?
  • How could you show empathy to someone offline?
    • How might your approach differ online?
  • Why might empathising with another party be useful in campaigning?

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.”

Activism, education and advocacy

Explain that campaigning for change doesn’t always mean protesting or mass actions, it can include educating others and giving voice to an issue.

There are three core ways in which you can effect change: activism, education and advocacy.

Ask the learners to define what each of these three types of action means:

  • Activism - taking action, campaigning to bring about change.
  • Education - Providing knowledge, understanding and information.
  • Advocacy - Arguing or speaking on behalf of someone else, or standing up for something you believe in.

Using three large sheets of paper (titled Activist, Educator and Advocate respectively), share with learners a list of key qualities from the slides. As a group, agree which quality belongs to each type of person and record these on the sheets (the same quality can be present on more than one sheet).

Once learners have agreed the characteristics for each type of person, place each of the sheets in three different corners of the room.

Ask the group, in silence, to move and stand under the role they associate most with. In other words, who do they think they are: activist, educator or advocate?

Ask learners to feed back on why they picked a particular role; what qualities do they possess that makes them well suited to that role?

Highlight that (hopefully) not all of the group have gone to a single place, meaning that there are many different approaches from the learners in the room. This is important because when campaigning for change you will often need a blend of all of qualities and skills in order to maximise success.

Some learners may not feel an affinity to one in particular and this can also be used to highlight that it’s not a binary process, some people may have elements of all the approaches and therefore can be highly valuable to a campaign team.

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.”

A day in the life of a content moderator

This activity aims to give learners some insight into the challenges faced by those who work in the internet industry to identify, combat and remove hurtful and harmful content (including hate speech) on their service. Understanding that there are human beings involved in the reporting, reviewing and removal of harmful content is important; these are people, doing a job (often under intense pressure) to help protect other users. Recognising and empathising with these people can be beneficial when attempting to work with online services to effect change, as it can help with how one approaches these services to effect change. Challenging these services to improve can be done in a measured, supportive and positive way, rather than issuing a list of demands, attempting to force new laws upon them, or attempt to ban the service outright.

Show the “A day in the life of a content moderator” video to the group. This story in the video is fictional but draws from the experiences of content moderators on social media platforms and is intended to highlight the challenging nature of the work as well as the effect it can have on those who undertake it.

A transcript of the video (with additional follow up questions) can also be used to discuss the experiences of online content moderators.

Ask learners:

  • What do they feel about the role of content moderator?
  • Is it a role they would like to do?
  • Why do they think people take up these roles?
  • How do they feel about the need for this role?
  • What status would they give the role from A to E, if A is professional and E is unemployed? (Hint - most people rate this alongside domestic staff/cleaners, possibly a category D role?)
  • What do they feel about the people in that role?
  • What do they think the people feel about their own work?

Explain that this process of “stepping into someone else’s shoes” is an important step to demonstrate empathy with the person’s situation. Not just looking at this and saying “Never mind, at least…”, but understanding the challenges faced by someone in that situation.

Now ask the group to imagine that they have made a report to a social media company and 48 hours after making it they not received a response.

Ask learners:

  • What type of reports might get a quicker response/action? (e.g. content that shows a user is at risk of harm/death and content involving more vulnerable/younger users will likely get a quicker response than content people find distasteful.)
  • What sort of response would you have expected within 48 hours?
  • How would you feel?
  • What would you do?
  • Why might you have not received a response within 48 hours?

Explain that many people reporting content are often reporting things that are perceived to be damaging to them or their employer (e.g. content that damages reputation) and they expect prompt action. Knowing what the learners know about the content moderator role, does this change their expectations from the platform?

Empathising with the company (and the individuals that work there) can help to lower stress and anxiety when choosing to make a report. It can also help a user with their own expectations about the speed with which their report may be dealt with, and the extent to which the problem will be solved.

Note: Some learners may comment that they “don’t bother reporting because nothing ever happens”. It is important to challenge this idea - in some cases no action will be taken by a service provider because the content in question does not breach its community standards (See Theme 8 - Media production) but the only way to know for sure is to report the content. If you don’t report the content then it is highly unlikely the service provider will spot it or take any action, so reporting is key to the service provider being able to take any action.

Ask if the learners can identify any other ways empathy can be elicited?

This will be a challenging question for many learners, especially those who have not received an education in emotional literacy, but with a little guidance you should be able to identify:

  • Be curious about strangers - talk to people, “be an interested inquirer” (Studs Terkel).
  • Challenge - don’t accept prejudices or stereotypes. Look for commonalities, not differences.
  • Step into their shoes - George Orwell literally did this, he became a “homeless person” in London and Paris, finding out about the inequalities that affected them.
  • Listen - no, really, listen. Become a more active listener and share the other person’s feelings.
  • Be a changemaker - empathy leads to mass action which can bring about social change.

Taken from the Greater Good Magazine, November 2012.

Tasks

Ask learners to imagine that they have to report online hate content to their favourite social network/app. Most reporting flows (routes through the reporting tool) try to establish the level of severity of the content as well as the type of problem a user is facing, and some allow you to type text into a box to explain the problem further.


Ask learners to think of a piece of online hate content they want to report (e.g. an offensive comment, meme/picture/video, offensive hashtags, etc.) and to write a short paragraph to explain the content further and why it should be taken down. For this activity, they should also aim to write their paragraph in a way that shows empathy towards the moderatorwho will see the report (and the content) and attempt to clearly explain what they want to happen as a result of their report.

Outcome Criteria

  • Demonstrate greater levels of empathy when actively listening.
  • Self identify key qualities for effective campaigning.

Resources

Demonstrate greater levels of empathy when actively listening. Self identify key qualities for effective campaigning.

Resource

Activism, education and advocacy

Self identifying key qualities for effective campaigning.

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A day in the life of a content moderator (video)

Demonstrating greater levels of empathy when actively listening.

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A day in the life of a content moderator

A transcript and follow up questions to accompany the 'A day in the life of a content moderator' video.

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