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Nikolas, Alexia, Margarita, and Nikolas

Athens Spring Hackathon “ORIGAMI CRANE” award

WEs”, the winning team interview

12th State of the Art Adolescent Health Meeting

April 5-6th Zappeion Megaron, Athens – Greece

How do you feel about hate speech? Do you frequently encounter it online?

Hate speech is an expression of extreme violence, present in all social media. Nearly every day we come across hate messages, especially in our digital reality. It is a form of bullying that needs to be eliminated, as people or groups are attacked for their characteristics, with no respect for their human rights. We are all humans with needs, feelings, dreams, and aspirations. All people need to be respected and part of our global society. It is really discouraging for us when different, weak, disabled people or people facing crises are cruelly addressed and isolated.

Have you ever considered preparing a “counter-narrative” campaign?

Yes, but this seems complicated without proper training. It may take months to collect the material and adapt it to the “requirements” of the campaign. Important key points would be the “know-how” of planning this campaign, the target group and how to create awareness and disseminate messages to a youth audience. An online campaign on a dedicated site for a sensitized audience will not really work. We need social media interviews, specific groups of influencers, videos and youth channels to get involved in our cause.

What is a “counter-narrative” campaign for you?

This is quite a hard question. It could be a campaign reversing hate messages and limiting negative online behavior. Creating “support messages”, “acceptance speech”, “empowerment skill promotion” etc. Newton’s Third law: reaction to any hate action. We can definitely change things online for the best – we just need to want it enough in order to succeed in it!

Who would your first target be in your “counter-narrative” campaign?

Many groups of people need our online support. In Greece, refugee children are certainly a group that needs support in the online and offline world. Greece, at the border of Europe, is the entrance gate to Europe for them; therefore, our campaign should be a “caring umbrella” against any online rhetoric of hate. However, other groups also need to be part of our campaign, such as disabled youth and also LGBTs, whose emerging rights are an issue of debate in our country.

How long should the campaign be online?

Difficult to say. As long as hate speech exists, there will be a need for the counter-rhetoric campaigns. Hopefully, a sustainable campaign, with persistent results, would be our target. We would aim for the campaign to be available at least for 1 year, in order to engage youth groups to our vision, through an “avalanche of acceptance”.

Students will be able to deeply empathize with every individual and treat her/him with respect. It is beyond despair for us to witness scenes of online verbal violence and tolerate images, memes or hate verses towards people, just for being who they are. A society that allows hate speech, tolerates discrimination and invites violence. People are not born hateful – they become hateful. Education can prevent hate!

Being part of the SELMA approach and being involved in the recently launched SELMA Toolkit, we would reach to youth teams in other countries to create a global network. Through this, we could organize multiple worldwide online/offline events and actions, such as conferences, platforms, hackathons, and school participation projects.

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