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“ More speech, Not less: Counter-Speech as a strategy to respond to incitement to violence and hatred” Dr. Agnes Callamard, Columbia University

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Presentation on theme: "“ More speech, Not less: Counter-Speech as a strategy to respond to incitement to violence and hatred” Dr. Agnes Callamard, Columbia University"— Presentation transcript:

1 “ More speech, Not less: Counter-Speech as a strategy to respond to incitement to violence and hatred” Dr. Agnes Callamard, Columbia University Ministerial Side Event Towards inclusive societies: empowerment and education as a strategy to prevent genocide United Nations, New York, 24 September 2014 Kingdom of Belgium and UN Office on Genocide Prevention

2 Terminology and scope Hate speech covers a variety and a spectrum of expression, some of which may be legitimate under international human rights law Focus here is on the most serious Hate Speech, non- protected by international law: – That falls under article 20 of the ICCPR (incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility) and under the Genocide Convention; – That is conducted on-line A six part test to distinguish harmful from less harmful hate speech is relied upon:

3 Incitement Speech: ARTICLE 19 six part test 1.The historical context of the expression; 2.The speaker (including his/her influence and position in the society and community) 3.The intent of the speaker/proponent to incite discrimination, hostility or violence; 4.The content of the expression (words, references, etc.) 5.Its outreach (including the audience and means of dissemination) ; 6.The likelihood that the advocated action will occur, including its imminence

4 What does Internet offer Extremist Individuals or Groups? The Internet offers easier, faster and inexpensive ways to: Connect Communicate Validate – “provides a feeling of empowerment that comes from finding out that feelings are widely shared” (1) The Internet is an ‘echo chamber’: Where “individuals find their ideas supported and echoed by other like-minded individuals” (2) Where they create a collective identity, often across borders, and a digital territory

5 A word on “communication” Ample evidence that hate and extremist groups are now more sophisticated in use of communication technologies but it varies across groups and countries; – 50% of 157 “hate” sites surveyed last year in the US included multimedia materials (3). – Recent ISIS videos demonstrate a thorough technical knowledge and understanding of marketing - Lend Me Your Ears and Grand Theft Auto 5. Important to distinguish between websites; chat rooms; facebook pages; twitter; Instagram; YouTube; SMS; etc.

6 What does the Internet offer Hate and Extremism? Far less evidence that Internet allows to: Mobilize/radicalize supporters Recruit members Train members e.g. in weapons’ use Organise action (acts of mass violence), e.g. through bulk SMS

7 Physical contacts for recruitment and radicalization … Internet is not a direct means of recruitment or radicalization but facilitates both – “chat rooms can be an engine of transformation because they provide validation” (4) Real-world social relationships are pivotal. – “the Internet can support and facilitate but never completely replace direct human contact and the ties of friendship and kinship through which intense personal loyalties form” (5) Crucial role of the family; school/university; church/mosque; and particularly prisons

8 On the effectiveness of blocking content Intelligence Experts concur: Systematic, large-scale deployment of take-down or filtering measures is impractical, and even counterproductive (6). Banning website or accounts is not very effective although it may be disruptive The offenders relocate, rename or mutate… and so does the incitement speech; eg Al-Shabbad Twitter account; – “The offence mutated… It was displaced to social media”, including to Facebook (Kenya) (7)

9 It is necessary to engaging in the battle of ideas through counter-speech to… 1.Denounce fundamentalist, extremist or radical thinking 2.Provide alternative and progressive interpretation 3.Bust myths, refute through counter-examples 4.Discredit (in particular rumors) 5.Plant ‘seeds of doubt’ (the reluctant radicals) 6.Highlight the risks linked to violence

10 Pre-conditions for an effective engagement in counter-speech on-line A legal and policy environment and practices that supports diversity and pluralism; An active and able to operate civil society; Access to Infrastructure, free and open source software (8) ; Some degree of digital literacy (requiring in turn digital education)

11 Examples of possible counter-speech Users-generated reporting and blocking; Entire playlists on YouTube dedicated to Islam against Extremism; New anti-Jihad YouTube animated series called Abdullah X,Abdullah X, US: Think Again Turn Away campaignThink Again Turn Away – launched in December 2013 – effort to enter the war of ideas and win hearts and minds of jihadists on social media. – Includes a twitter campaign, a video. EC: focuses on areas where the largest gains can be made. – Focuses on ‘positive’ rather than ‘negative’ initiatives. – Seeks to develop frontline partnerships around collation – Creation, and dissemination of counter- and alternative-narratives through the Internet and social media.

12 Not to be confused with Disrupting Speech In 2011, the ‘hacktivist’ collective, Anonymous – Called on Internet users to upload altered copies of Anders Breivik’s manifesto to prevent his political ideas from influencing others. The UK governmenEffective counter-speech requires strong community engagement, connection, etc. ‘Operation Cupcake’: – MI6 replaced virtual copies of Al-Qaeda’s flagship magazine, Inspire, with a popular recipe for cupcakes

13 Assessment of possible counter- speech (based on 15 examples) On the positive side Increasingly the extremist space is occupied and challenged, By a range of actors: – Governments – Inter-Governmental organizations – Social media – Civil society – Individuals

14 Assessment: on the positive side Even in countries where speaking out is difficult, the counter-speech movement is gaining ground : – Myanmar: The Panzagar Movement https://www.facebook.com/panzagar https://www.facebook.com/panzagar – Pakistan: Messages from the mosque – Kenya: range of initiatives on and off line

15 Assessment: on the positive side Solidarity with the victims of Hate Speech Active responses to the average hate speech (not necessarily incitement): e.g. Response to Hate Speech following the election of the first Muslim Miss America. Hate Crimes posted on-line are denunced and reported by viewers

16 Analysing counter speech and their impact Ideally counter speech intervention should include a reflection on the following elements: Who should speak - The Messengers The objective/target/motivation (is the counter-speech seeking to address Extremist information, or connection or validation or recruitment, etc.) The audience targeted (specific individuals, groups, etc.) The content and message (text, images, videos, campaigns, tweets, etc.) The means of dissemination (website, chat room, messengers, facebook, etc.)

17 Assessment: limits and difficulties Some initiatives appear to have ticked many boxes but fail in their sustainable outreach (9) Individuals denunciation can get it terribly wrong (Witch hunt following the Boston Bombing) Too many initiatives or campaigns end up preaching to the converted Videos: many are text heavy, not very exciting or fail to find the right tone or balance compared to the sophisticated videos of eg Jihadists Crowd sourcing: not necessarily smart and accurate sourcing

18 Assessment: limits and difficulties Large number of initiatives – Not thought out as part of a sophisticated communication or marketing strategy No clear understanding of: the end user, the product to communicate, the expected outcome, etc. Is the strategy to disrupt communication and connection flows; offer alternative information; provide alternative validation? Or prevent recruitment and radicalization and if so evidence demands an off-line strategy. We are just at the beginning of the Journey…

19 Recommendation Community and local kowledge Learning from the other (offline) world… The importance of trust, local knowledge and “community” One-on-one digital method is designed to “overcome in- group peer pressure, which can act as a significant barrier to meaningful intervention” (10) EXIT Sweden: – Grass-roots organisation - part- funded by the Swedish government – Former violent extremists on staff – Supports the rehabilitation of individuals who identify with neo-Nazi movements. – Recognises the importance of online community- bonding processes and has begun to explore the potential of online engagement strategies

20 Recommendation: Engaging difficult topics Anger related to perceived injustices must be addressed (11) – Connects to current, ‘hot’ news items (12) Address topics extremists monopolize, including “through accurate and nuanced viewpoints targeting youth particularly vulnerable to extremist ideology” (13)

21 Recommendation On the importance of Off line intervention Australia: The National Imams Consultative Forum: – NICF meets three times a year for a 2-day workshop during which Imams are exposed to information and skills relating to the radicalisation process, its indicators, ideological drivers, and means by which to challenge these drivers. UK: Bold Creative – Creative design agency that piloted its ‘Digital Disruption’ workshops aimed at inoculating vulnerable youth against online propaganda.

22 A role for Governments? Enable (through laws and policies) civil society efforts to design and deliver alternative narrative campaigns; Enable a legal regime that promotes diversity and pluralism of opinions and of the media, unhindered and equal access to Internet, etc. Refrain from speech that directly or indirectly ostracize, discriminate, and of course from hate or incitement speech Explore and deliver targeted alternative narratives on and off-line, re-enforced by strong community engagement Ensure that messages are reinforced by government policies and practices. Support evaluation, research – Counter-speech needs more exploration and data

23 And let’s not forget some thorny difficult questions The ethics of users reporting and censorship The implications (for democratic principles) of Intermediaries content regulation/censorship What is the relationship between extremist ideology and violent one? Between Radical Extremist Ideas and Radical Violent Behaviors Is supporting the idea of terrorism a crime? How does one handle the official “extremist” ideology espoused and practiced officially by a number of countries around the world, some of which do export it abroad through various other legal means, eg funding of religious education, religious places of worship, etc.


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