“More speech, Not less: Counter-Speech as a strategy to respond to incitement to violence and hatred” Dr. Agnes Callamard, Columbia University [email protected] Ministerial Side Event Towards inclusive societies: empowerment and education as a strategy to prevent genocide United Nations, New York, 24 September 2014 Kingdom of Belgium and UN Office on Genocide Prevention Terminology and scope • Hate speech covers a variety and a spectrum of expression, some of which may be legitimate under international human rights law • Focus here is on the most serious Hate Speech, nonprotected by international law: – That falls under article 20 of the ICCPR (incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility) and under the Genocide Convention; – That is conducted on-line • A six part test to distinguish harmful from less harmful hate speech is relied upon: Incitement Speech: ARTICLE 19 six part test 1. The historical context of the expression; 2. The speaker (including his/her influence and position in the society and community) 3. The intent of the speaker/proponent to incite discrimination, hostility or violence; 4. The content of the expression (words, references, etc.) 5. Its outreach (including the audience and means of dissemination); 6. The likelihood that the advocated action will occur, including its imminence What does Internet offer Extremist Individuals or Groups? The Internet offers easier, faster and inexpensive ways to: • Connect • Communicate • Validate – “provides a feeling of empowerment that comes from finding out that feelings are widely shared”(1) The Internet is an ‘echo chamber’: • Where “individuals find their ideas supported and echoed by other like-minded individuals” • Where they create a collective identity, often across borders, and a digital territory (2) A word on “communication” • Ample evidence that hate and extremist groups are now more sophisticated in use of communication technologies but it varies across groups and countries; – 50% of 157 “hate” sites surveyed last year in the US included multimedia materials (3). – Recent ISIS videos demonstrate a thorough technical knowledge and understanding of marketing - Lend Me Your Ears and Grand Theft Auto 5. • Important to distinguish between websites; chat rooms; facebook pages; twitter; Instagram; YouTube; SMS; etc. What does the Internet offer Hate and Extremism? Far less evidence that Internet allows to: • Mobilize/radicalize supporters • Recruit members • Train members e.g. in weapons’ use • Organise action (acts of mass violence), e.g. through bulk SMS Physical contacts for recruitment and radicalization … • Internet is not a direct means of recruitment or radicalization but facilitates both – “chat rooms can be an engine of transformation because they provide validation”(4) • Real-world social relationships are pivotal. – “the Internet can support and facilitate but never completely replace direct human contact and the ties of friendship and kinship through which intense personal loyalties form” (5) • Crucial role of the family; school/university; church/mosque; and particularly prisons On the effectiveness of blocking content Intelligence Experts concur: • Systematic, large-scale deployment of take-down or filtering measures is impractical, and even counterproductive (6). • Banning website or accounts is not very effective although it may be disruptive • The offenders relocate, rename or mutate… and so does the incitement speech; eg Al-Shabbad Twitter account; – “The offence mutated… It was displaced to social media”, including to Facebook (Kenya) (7) It is necessary to engaging in the battle of ideas through counter-speech to… 1. Denounce fundamentalist, extremist or radical thinking 2. Provide alternative and progressive interpretation 3. Bust myths, refute through counter-examples 4. Discredit (in particular rumors) 5. Plant ‘seeds of doubt’ (the reluctant radicals) 6. Highlight the risks linked to violence Pre-conditions for an effective engagement in counter-speech on-line • A legal and policy environment and practices that supports diversity and pluralism; • An active and able to operate civil society; • Access to Infrastructure, free and open source software ; • Some degree of digital literacy (requiring in turn digital education) (8) Examples of possible counter-speech • • • • Users-generated reporting and blocking; Entire playlists on YouTube dedicated to Islam against Extremism; New anti-Jihad YouTube animated series called Abdullah X, US: Think Again Turn Away campaign – launched in December 2013 – effort to enter the war of ideas and win hearts and minds of jihadists on social media. – Includes a twitter campaign, a video. • EC: RAN @ focuses on areas where the largest gains can be made. – Focuses on ‘positive’ rather than ‘negative’ initiatives. – Seeks to develop frontline partnerships around collation – Creation, and dissemination of counter- and alternative-narratives through the Internet and social media. Not to be confused with Disrupting Speech • In 2011, the ‘hacktivist’ collective, Anonymous – Called on Internet users to upload altered copies of Anders Breivik’s manifesto to prevent his political ideas from influencing others. • The UK governmenEffective counter-speech requires strong community engagement, connection, etc. • ‘Operation Cupcake’: – MI6 replaced virtual copies of Al-Qaeda’s flagship magazine, Inspire, with a popular recipe for cupcakes Assessment of possible counterspeech (based on 15 examples) On the positive side • Increasingly the extremist space is occupied and challenged, • By a range of actors: – Governments – Inter-Governmental organizations – Social media – Civil society – Individuals Assessment: on the positive side • Even in countries where speaking out is difficult, the counter-speech movement is gaining ground: – Myanmar: The Panzagar Movement https://www.facebook.com/panzagar – Pakistan: Messages from the mosque http://imams.mashalbooks.org – Kenya: range of initiatives on and off line Assessment: on the positive side • Solidarity with the victims of Hate Speech • Active responses to the average hate speech (not necessarily incitement): e.g. Response to Hate Speech following the election of the first Muslim Miss America. • Hate Crimes posted on-line are denunced and reported by viewers Analysing counter speech and their impact Ideally counter speech intervention should include a reflection on the following elements: • Who should speak - The Messengers • The objective/target/motivation (is the counter-speech seeking to address Extremist information, or connection or validation or recruitment, etc.) • The audience targeted (specific individuals, groups, etc.) • The content and message (text, images, videos, campaigns, tweets, etc.) • The means of dissemination (website, chat room, messengers, facebook, etc.) Assessment: limits and difficulties • Some initiatives appear to have ticked many boxes but fail in their sustainable outreach (9) • Individuals denunciation can get it terribly wrong (Witch hunt following the Boston Bombing) • Too many initiatives or campaigns end up preaching to the converted • Videos: many are text heavy, not very exciting or fail to find the right tone or balance compared to the sophisticated videos of eg Jihadists • Crowd sourcing: not necessarily smart and accurate sourcing Assessment: limits and difficulties • Large number of initiatives – Not thought out as part of a sophisticated communication or marketing strategy • No clear understanding of: the end user, the product to communicate, the expected outcome, etc. • Is the strategy to disrupt communication and connection flows; offer alternative information; provide alternative validation? • Or prevent recruitment and radicalization and if so evidence demands an off-line strategy. • We are just at the beginning of the Journey… Recommendation Community and local kowledge • Learning from the other (offline) world… The importance of trust, local knowledge and “community” • One-on-one digital method is designed to “overcome ingroup peer pressure, which can act as a significant barrier to meaningful intervention” (10) • EXIT Sweden: – Grass-roots organisation - part- funded by the Swedish government – Former violent extremists on staff – Supports the rehabilitation of individuals who identify with neo-Nazi movements. – Recognises the importance of online community- bonding processes and has begun to explore the potential of online engagement strategies Recommendation: Engaging difficult topics • Anger related to perceived injustices must be addressed (11) – Connects to current, ‘hot’ news items (12) • Address topics extremists monopolize, including “through accurate and nuanced viewpoints targeting youth particularly vulnerable to extremist ideology” (13) Recommendation On the importance of Off line intervention • Australia: The National Imams Consultative Forum: – NICF meets three times a year for a 2-day workshop during which Imams are exposed to information and skills relating to the radicalisation process, its indicators, ideological drivers, and means by which to challenge these drivers. • UK: Bold Creative – Creative design agency that piloted its ‘Digital Disruption’ workshops aimed at inoculating vulnerable youth against online propaganda. A role for Governments? • Enable (through laws and policies) civil society efforts to design and deliver alternative narrative campaigns; • Enable a legal regime that promotes diversity and pluralism of opinions and of the media, unhindered and equal access to Internet, etc. • Refrain from speech that directly or indirectly ostracize, discriminate, and of course from hate or incitement speech • Explore and deliver targeted alternative narratives on and off-line, re-enforced by strong community engagement • Ensure that messages are reinforced by government policies and practices. • Support evaluation, research – Counter-speech needs more exploration and data And let’s not forget some thorny difficult questions •The ethics of users reporting and censorship •The implications (for democratic principles) of Intermediaries content regulation/censorship •What is the relationship between extremist ideology and violent one? Between Radical Extremist Ideas and Radical Violent Behaviors •Is supporting the idea of terrorism a crime? •How does one handle the official “extremist” ideology espoused and practiced officially by a number of countries around the world, some of which do export it abroad through various other legal means, eg funding of religious education, religious places of worship, etc.