Young People Encounter Hate Speech Online Every Day

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, December 15, 2019 – The public sphere, notably the Internet, is full of discriminatory and hate speech, which mostly affects young people as they encounter it almost on a daily basis on social media, news portals and forums, a round table heard earlier this week.

“We are aware that inappropriate and hate speech both online and offline is increasingly present and it in particular affects young people. They are often the victims of hate speech and discriminatory speech but they also resort to it,” Human Rights Ombudswoman Lora Vidović said.

Young people are connected as no previous generation and some Internet users are encouraged by apparent anonymity, i.e. by not being directly in contact with the interlocutor.

The causes of such behaviour are complex, one being the lack of perception of the far-reaching consequences of such speech, i.e. the feelings it elicits in other people and protection mechanisms, according to Vidović.

“We must see how to turn the situation around and encourage positive narratives, how to utilise the knowledge young people have in order to define new policies, solutions, algorithms, perhaps even new laws to change the situation.”

Young people must be part of all changes, social, political, economic and climate, and this has also been recognised by the UN, which has dedicated this year’s Human Rights Day to youth, Vidović said.

Deputy Human Rights Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter presented the findings of a national survey on hate speech which the Human Rights Ombudswoman’s Office conducted in cooperation with the IPSOS agency among people aged 18-30.

The survey shows that they mainly use Instagram, share videos and photos, and one segment, mainly older respondents and men, comment on social media and portals.

According to the respondents, hate speech is extensively present in the physical public sphere in the form of graffiti and posters, at political gatherings, on TV and radio.

Hate speech is even more present in comments on social media, news portals, forums, Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat which, according to Šimonović Einwalter, begs the question – has intolerant speech become part of the communication among youth given that texting services are used mainly by acquaintances and friends?

As many as 96% of young people said they had encountered hate speech over the past three months. About one-third of respondents encounter hate speech almost daily on social media, news portals and forums.

Hateful or intolerant comments are mainly based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical appearance, religion and gender. The survey shows that 44% of young persons have been the target of hate speech.

Young people who received hate comments felt sad, humiliated, afraid, threatened and ashamed, yet 68% have not reported them to anyone, although 92% believe such comments can hurt their targets.

Most of the respondents believe regulations on the Internet are too weak and that there is too much hate speech.

Croatia and Europe are recording an increase in social polarisation and hate speech, said Tatjana Katkić Stanić of the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy.

“The Internet, unfortunately, is a very powerful medium in which not only youth, but adults as well, use pseudonyms to express intolerance towards those who are in any way different.”

Essential for resolving the problems are inter-departmental cooperation and especially education, with programmes and workshops that should begin from the earliest age, while at the same time working with parents.

More news about children in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.


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