Necessity of Countering Hate Speech building capacity of youth leaders.

For a peaceful, pluralist, just and inclusive society it’s time to counter hate speech 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 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 has arranged 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 in online and offline.

Background

Bangladesh is facing huge challenges in freedom of expression, justice, rule of law, and governance, in particular. Society is completely divided and hates speech 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 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. 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 has dreamed  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 a unique online platform through this website to counter hate speech and. And, through the platform they will voluntarily write, make digital stories, make audio-visuals & films, do artworks and share them to our counter hate speech platform. 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 counter hate speech. The Capacity building program was to enhance the capacity of youth groups and to build a network that will further counter hate speech online. The workshop is believed to help the participants to understand organized hate speech campaigns and uncover the core message in these incidents that resonate with other individuals and the motives and networks that drive proponents of hate and to 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.
  • To facilitate the youth group to actively engage them for advocating on counter hate speech 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 Organization (FCO).

How the participants can utilize the skills gained in the workshop  After the workshops the youth group with their enhanced capacity can continue to write and develop textual and digital stories and will disseminate them through the counterhatespeech.net website.  And they can 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. VOICE play a steering role to provide support and facilitate the youth group so that they can continue to contribute stories/write-ups/digital stories and post them in website and social media page on counter hate speech.