Confronting Online Hate Speech: The Power of Norm-Setting

In a digital age where social media platforms have become a breeding ground for hate speech, a recent study offers a glimmer of hope. According to communication professors Stewart Coles and Daniel Lane, white internet users are more likely to confront authors of racist posts if the goal is to reinforce norms for online discussions rather than changing the person’s prejudiced beliefs.

Setting Social Norms: A Powerful Motivator

The study, conducted during the 2020 U.S. presidential election cycle, surveyed white participants and found that reframing the goal of interaction to setting social norms increased their willingness to challenge racist content online. This finding suggests that norm-setting could lead to more people standing up against hate speech on social media, potentially reducing the dissemination of racist ideology.

The Role of Relationships

Interestingly, the study also revealed that people are more willing to confront someone they are closer to than a stranger or acquaintance. This emphasizes the importance of relationships in combating online hate speech and underscores the responsibility we all have towards our social circles.

Case Study: The Moroccan Antiracist Group GADEM

The significance of confronting online hate speech becomes even more apparent in the case of GADEM, a Moroccan antiracist group that has been targeted by a cyber harassment campaign. Anonymous online accounts have spread far-right rhetoric and racist abuse towards migrant people and their supporters, including calls for deportation, arrest, and violence against activists.

The campaign includes unfounded accusations of promoting miscegenation and complicity with a globalist agenda. The content reflects entrenched discrimination targeting Blackness in the Maghreb and echoes far-right tropes related to migration politics.

Addressing Anti-black Racism and the Legacy of Slavery

Activists, NGOs, and media outlets have denounced the abusive campaign, highlighting the need to address anti-black racism and the legacy of slavery in the region. The findings from Coles and Lane’s study suggest that reframing the goal of interaction to setting norms could help in combating such campaigns and fostering a more inclusive online environment.

As we move forward in this digital era, it is crucial to remember that our actions, however small they may seem, can make a significant difference. By setting social norms and standing up against hate speech, we can contribute to creating a more inclusive and respectful online community.

Keywords: Social Media, Racism, Online Hate Speech, Norm-setting, GADEM, Antiracist Group, Cyber Harassment, Far-right Rhetoric, Anti-black Racism, Legacy of Slavery.

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