The Responding to Online Hate guide assists law enforcement personnel, community groups and educators in recognizing and countering hateful content on the Internet – especially as it pertains to youth.
There are two main strategies for addressing online hate and cultures of hatred in the classroom: teaching youth to recognize and deconstruct it, and empowering them to intervene by answering back to it.
Since its earliest days, the internet has been hailed as a uniquely open marketplace of ideas, and it has become an essential means for people to access information and services. The downside of this is that, alongside its many valuable resources, the internet also offers a host of offensive materials – including hateful content – that attempt to inflame public opinion against certain groups and to turn people against one another.
It is not always easy to discern when hateful content on the internet crosses the line from being offensive to illegal. The line between hate speech and free speech is a thin one, and different countries have different levels of tolerance. The line is even thinner in digital environments where hateful comments posted lawfully in one country can be read in other countries where they may be deemed unlawful.
The internet has become a prime means of communication worldwide and this unprecedented global reach – combined with the difficulty in tracking communications – makes it an ideal tool for extremists to repackage old hatred, raise funds, and recruit members. As the internet has grown and changed, hate groups and movements have adapted, creating websites, forums and social network profiles, becoming active in spaces such as online games, and even creating parallel versions of services such as Twitter and Wikipedia.
For all that the Internet can offer us, it sometimes offers a platform for promoting hatred and violence. In this section, we cover what online hate means, what Canadian law says about it, and how young people and adults can respond to it while keeping in mind Canada’s position on freedom of expression.