For a peaceful, pluralist, just and inclusive society it’s time to counter hate speech and spread of mis/disinformation online and promote responsible use of internet.
Currently, Bangladesh has 103 million internet users; of those a large number is youths. Due to the surge of internet subscribers and lack of knowledge on responsible internet use, spread of hate speech and misinformation is pervasive on social media in Bangladesh. This phenomenon has lead Bangladesh in an alarming situation fostering social division, conflict, and violence.
In such context, VOICE initiates a capacity building program to foster a young group of participants including journalists, social & cultural activists, women, indigenous and minority activists, artists, filmmakers, photographers, bloggers, writers & university students through facilitating capacity and knowledge development to counter hate speech and misinformation and promote responsible use of digital space.
Bangladesh is facing huge challenges in freedom of expression, justice, rule of law, and governance, in particular. Society is completely divided and hates speech and mis/disinformation is pervasively spread, particularly, by the fundamental religious groups and divided youth groups along with political fronts. The way internet subscribers (103.85 million) skyrocketed in the last few years, the spread of hate speech and mis/dis-information rose in a similar trend. Particularly in Bangladesh there are two types of Hate Speech prevails– one is Religious hate speech and other is Political Hate Speech. Religious Hate Speech is mainly spread by Islamic clerics and Islamist groups against women of all religions. Often these hate speech escalates violence against women online and offline. Speeches of Islamic clerics spread online to millions of people due to easy access of internet mobile technology in a moment and those encourage violence against women like rape, torture, domestic violence, eve-teasing, online harassment and also often instigate violence against other religion. There are instances of fatal violence in Bangladesh in recent years against other religion which begun due to propaganda and misinformation spread online through social media. For instance, a series of attacks on Buddhist monasteries, shrines, and houses of Buddhist inhabitants in Ramu Upazila in Cox’s Bazar District took place by local mobs on the midnight past 29 September 2012. The mobs destroyed 12 Buddhist temples and monasteries and 50 houses in reaction to a tagging of an image depicting the desecration of a Quran on the timeline of a fake Facebook account under a Buddhist male name. An estimated 25,000 people participated in the violence directed and ravaged 20 Buddhist villages. Also, in October 2019 in Burhanuddin Upazila of Bhola district 4 people were killed and 100 were injured in the destructive clash between police and local mob over religious hate spread through a fake Facebook ID. Moreover, Political Hate Speech is spread by divided political groups and parties along with their youth and student fronts online and offline that instigate political violence and unrest.
In such situation, VOICE would like to build an online youth activist group including youth, journalists, social activists, women and minority activists, netizens, young artists, writers, bloggers, filmmakers, photographers, cultural activists and university students through a Capacity Building Program, so that this group can engage themselves to build an unique online platform through this website to counter hate speech and spread of misinformation. And, through the platform they will voluntarily write, make digital stories, make audio-visuals & films, do artworks and share them to counter hate speech and aware people online for responsible online behavior to limit the spread of mis/disinformation. That will foster tolerance, empathy, diversity of thoughts and opinions and in greater peace and harmony in the society.
Purpose of the Capacity Building Program
One of VOICE’s core priorities is promoting Human Rights and VOICE has been working for building peaceful and inclusive societies through different programs on Freedom of Expression and Religion, counter hate speech and infodemic of misinformation and promoting Responsible use of Internet.
As the “Challenging hate narratives and violations of freedom of religion and expression online in Asia” (Challenge) project supported by Association for Progressive Communication (APC) seeks to protect and promote respect for freedom of religion and expression on the internet, particularly by countering hate speech online on the basis of religion, and generating narratives and discourse that defend secular and diverse opinions touching upon religion. The Capacity building program will enhance the capacity of youth groups and will build a network that will counter hate speech online. The workshop under the program will help the participants to understand organised hate speech campaigns and will uncover the core message in these incidents that resonate with other individuals and the motives and networks that drive proponents of hate and will counter hate speech using skills they learn in the workshops.
Workshop Specific objectives
- Building a youth activist group and enhance their capacity that they can counter hate-speech and limit spread of mis/dis-information online.
- To facilitate the youth group to actively engage them for advocating on counter hate speech and spread of misinformation online and promote responsible use of the internet.
About VOICE and its similar initiatives
VOICE’s mission is to build a pluralist society drawing on the interactions, choices and power of indigenous cultures and resources. Therefore, VOICE continuously works on issues related to Freedom of Expression, hate speech, countering mis/disinformation and on greater human rights issues through networking, engagement and partnership approach engaging different stakeholders through dialogues, building their capacities through training and workshops.
VOICE has potential experience of implementing projects on Freedom of Expression, Hate speech and spread of misinformation including capacity and skill development training for journalists and citizen journalists. In 2018 (April-December) VOICE implemented a project titled “Assessment of Freedom of Expression Online in Bangladesh: Analysing Regulatory Frameworks and Advocacy for Strengthening Online Expression” supported by APC. From 2019 VOICE has implemented a project titled “Strengthening and Monitoring the Scenario of Freedom of Expression for Promoting Human Rights in Bangladesh” funded by UNDP. Under this project VOICE has experience of conducting skill development training for 100 journalists in Mymensingh and Jamalpur. Moreover, under the same project recently VOICE has conducted two capacity building workshops for journalists and young writers on “Responsible use of internet and freedom of expression: Hate speech, content blocking and censorship”. And, in 2020 VOICE has implemented a project on misinformation and communication crisis during COVID 19 titled “Strengthening and Monitoring the Scenario of Freedom of Expression for Promoting Human Rights in Bangladesh” funded by APC. Also, VOICE has implemented a project on Freedom of Expression in 2013 funded by Foreign and Commonwealth Organisation (FCO).
How the participants will utilise the skills gained in the workshop
After the workshops the youth group with their enhanced capacity will continue to write and develop textual and digital stories and will disseminate them through the counterhatespeech.net website. And they will also develop a Facebook page voluntarily run and managed by the group where the developed stories will be shared while other youth groups will be invited on the platform to continue the initiative for a greater sustainability. Moreover, after the training this group will be facilitated to form a youth secretariat who will work as champions on countering hate speech and spread of mis/disinformation. VOICE will play a steering role to provide support and facilitate the youth group that they continue to contribute stories/write-ups/digital stories and post them in website and social media page on counter hate speech and spread of mis/disinformation.