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SELMA - Exploring the consequences of online hate speech

SELMA is a project co-funded by the European Commission which aims to tackle the problem of online hate speech by promoting mutual awareness, tolerance, and respect. SWGfL, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, is delivering the two year project along with four other partners: European Schoolnet, For Adolescent Health, The Diana Award, LMK and Centre for Digital Youth Care.

The SELMA Toolkit, which we will launch this spring, will gather a wide range of themes, activities and resources to increase understanding of online hate speech, look at its impact and introduce strategies for disrupting online hate speech, in other words to "hack hate", with young people aged 11-16.

The Toolkit is coming together and, in order to allow educators to start working with young people before the launch, here is a sneak preview of an activity linked to our monthly focus: the consequences of online hate speech.

The Colour Game

Intro

This activity aims to raise understanding of how ‘in-groups' and ‘out-groups' are created on the basis of the social identity theory. It will also support young people in identifying key phrases used to distinguish between different groups of individuals. Taking part in this game will help young people discuss issues around group identity, how we choose to become part of one group or another and the consequences of that – both in terms of being in a group or outside of it. This activity can fit in easily into a lesson about citizenship.

Intended outcomes

  • Understanding how social identity theory creates a sense of "in-groups" and "out-groups".
  • Identify key phrases used to distinguish between different groups of individuals.

Questions to Ask

  • What characteristics do you use to define yourself?
  • What are some characteristics/traits that you may consider to be positive? (e.g. generous, caring, optimistic, good listener, etc.)
  • What are some characteristics/traits that you may consider to be negative? (e.g. short-tempered, cynical etc.)

Activity

Use the slides for this activity.

Organisation

Group of learners split into three sub groups:

  • The Red Convincers.
  • The Blue Convincers.
  • The Audience.

Aim

Convincers must convince members of the Audience group to join their colour team in a two-minute pitch.

Instructions

The game takes place over two rounds:

Round 1

The Red Convincer team and the Blue Convincer team are each given a card with a list of qualities that define their team (positive and negative).

They must make their case to the Audience group using only this information to convince the Audience to join their team - they can pick and choose which qualities they wish to talk about.

Once both teams have decided on the qualities they will talk about, and who in the team will deliver the pitch (one person or more), give each team two minutes to make their pitch to the Audience group.

Once both teams have made their pitch, ask the Audience group to move to stand next to the team that convinced them (or to stay seated if they were not swayed by either).

Ask learners from the Audience group to explain what convinced them to join that team - for example, which qualities did you identify with that made you side with them?

Ask the Audience group to return to their seats in preparation for Round 2.

Round 2

This time, both the Red Convincer team and the Blue Convincer team are each given a new card.

This card contains a list of characteristics that define their team as well as a list of characteristics that define the opposing team.

This time, the teams must make their case using any of the information available (i.e. they can use mix of information from both lists).

Once both teams have decided on the qualities they will talk about, and who in the team will deliver the pitch (one person or more), give each team two minutes to make their pitch to the Audience group.

Once both teams have made their pitch, ask the Audience group to move to stand next to the team that convinced them (or to stay seated if they were not swayed by either).

It is expected that, when given information about the opposing team, a team will begin defining themselves in contradistinction to that team, using the information they have to denigrate the other team and make their own team appear superior.

Ask the audience to talk about the difference between Round 1 and Round 2; what did they notice about the pitch that each team gave?

Tasks

Explain Tajfel's "Social identity theory" to learners; a useful brief overview can be found here.

Explain that Round 1 was an example of "social identification" - using characteristics we relate to or have in common to identify with a group. Being part of a group gives us a sense of social identity and belonging; it also increases our pride and self-esteem. We will often enhance or exaggerate the qualities of our own group to improve our self-image.

Round 2 was an example of "social comparison" - using characteristics of an opposing group to make our own group appear better or superior. This is another way of improving or maintaining our self-image; discriminating against another group and making their characteristics appear "negative" makes our own group's characteristics look more "positive". We may also exaggerate the difference between our group and another in order to appear more superior.

Round 2 demonstrates the formation of in-groups (us) and out-groups (them).

Ask learners to think back to the pitches made in Round 2 - what words/phrases were used to create a division (e.g. positive "us" terms and negative "them" words)? Ask learners to record these words either by making their own individual list, or working together to write a list on a large sheet of paper/write on sticky notes.

Explain that this activity provides some insight into part of the motivation underlying prejudice and discrimination that can lead to hate speech, and provides some examples of words/phrases that may be used in hateful discourse (online and offline).

Discover more activities at hackinghate.eu

Resources