Group calls for an end to hate speech on internet

28/07/2014

A campaign to raise awareness about hate speech on the internet reaches 15 cities in BiH.

By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka -- 28/07/14

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Motus Adulescenti, an organisation in BiH, is planning a conference in September to reach dozens of youth leaders. [Motus Adulescenti]

The internet is a powerful tool that allows unprecedented opportunities for communicating and sharing information with friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. But with that power comes the ability for abuse.

An NGO in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is trying to change that. The Motus Adulescenti association has launched a campaign against hate speech on the internet, targeted to teenagers and young people.

"Statistically, 49 percent of households in the state have a direct approach to internet and young people aged 15 to 25 represent biggest group of users. It means that they are exposed to hate speech in virtual space but, also, they are creators of this problem. They grow up with internet and social networks, and the border between the virtual world and the real world is more difficult to recognise," programme co-ordinator Aleksandra Matic told SETimes.

Since there is no law that prevents hate speech on social networks, Matic said the only solution is education, not just for teenagers but all age groups in BiH. Most young people, in particular, don't recognise the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech, Matic said.

Representatives of the NGO traveled through 15 cities in BiH this month making public presentations about the dangers of hate speech on the internet.

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Many youth don’t recognise the difference between hate speech and freedom of speech, members of Motus Adulescenti said. [AFP]

"Many citizens in these cities, not just teenagers, approached our activists asking what we are doing. After our presentation, many of them said that they want to be a part of project to help battle against hate speech," she said.

Bojana, 16, of Banja Luka, said that she has seen hate speech on Facebook and other social networks. She asked that her last name not be used by SETimes.

"Some of my friends had problems but it was not so hard. As we know of that problem, we are careful and always think twice before we accept somebody for a friend on social networks," she said.

Bojana said that she believes most of those who use hate speech on social networks do so from influences at home. She said if parents are arguing at home and don't care what their children are doing on internet, there is a bigger chance that kids will use hate speech.

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"The second reason is that kids are using hate speech on social networks just to be in the trend. Most of them simply see that somebody wrote something rude about another person, and just participate without good reason. They think, if they don't participate, friends will consider him or her a coward," she said.

Motus Adulescenti is planning a conference for September in Jahorina to spread its message against hate speech. More than 100 youth activists will be invited.

"Our goal is to educate 100 leaders of the 20-members teams in all cities in BiH. These teams will battle against hate speech in their communities. Also in September we plan to begin co-operation with primary and secondary schools to educate pupils about the influence of hate and how to recognise and react to hate speech," Matic said.

How can society discourage the use of online hate speech, particularly by young people? Add your thoughts in the comment space below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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