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Young People from Across Europe Hack Hate in Berlin

Last week saw SWGfL and their European partners working with teams of young people in Berlin in their SELMA ‘Hacking Hate’ hackathon. SELMA is conducted by SWGfL outside of its work in the UK Safer Internet Centre.

SELMA (Social and Emotional Learning for Mutual Awareness) is a two-year project aiming to tackle the growing problem of online hate speech with mutual awareness, tolerance and respect.

The hackathon at the Facebook Digital Learning Centre involved six teams from Italy, Denmark, Greece, Germany and the UK. Students from Fife College in Scotland and Newbridge Integrated College in Northern Ireland represented the UK.

What happened at the hackathon?

Across two days, the teams worked to develop their ideas for tackling online hate speech. They had the opportunity to work with experts involved in education, coding and anti-hate speech initiatives. These experts provided valuable information and ideas that would be crucial in helping teams realise their ideas; particularly with regards to ethics, safety, marketing, project development and quality assurance.

The teams were given time to further develop their ideas and prepare an eight-minute pitch which they then delivered to a panel of experts. Each entry was judged on a number of criteria including creativity, innovation, and possible impact in order to pick one winner for the hackathon competition.

The UK entries

Fife College’s team ‘L.A.D.’ presented their idea of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) app that would support young people if they were the target of hate speech online. The app would allow a young person to talk to the AI via text or voice to explain what they experienced and, importantly, how it made them feel. Based on the information the young person gives, the AI would offer strategies for regulating emotions, advice on what they could do to resolve their problem, and signpost to trusted organisations/helplines who could offer professional advice and support. The team shared prototypes for how the app might look and function, and also explained ways that they could partner with local and national organisations in the UK.

Newbridge Integrated College shared their concept for ‘Hate Defuse’, an interactive web app that would help young people understand what hate speech is and provide opportunities to explore different aspects of hate speech through advice pages, drama footage (both from their school and other local schools in Northern Ireland) and an interactive 3D game. The team were also committed to writing regular blogs about hate speech issues and to promoting positive advice messages through social media channels.

Other entries to the competition included an app that aimed to educate users who had been blocked from social media for being offensive, an app that educated young people on a number of online hate speech topics, and a drama based educational programme that helped educators and young people understand the effects of hate speech and how to counter it online.

The winning entry

All the ideas showcased at the hackathon were worthy winners but victory went to the Digital Vikings’s entry from Denmark; a reward system to promote positive behaviour in users of popular online games.

The judges were impressed by the relevance of the idea and the use of incentives and rewards to create a positive counternarrative to the online hate that some gamers experience. The winning entry will receive extra support to help make the idea a reality.

To learn more about Project SELMA and how SWGfL is working with European partners to hack online hate, visit www.hackinghate.eu.

This article was originally posted in the SWGfL Magazine.