With digital activism against hate speech

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has published a publication “Digital Activism Against Hate Speech – a Handbook in the Fight against e-Homophobia/Biphobia/Transphobia, Hatred, and Violence,” which provides guidelines on the fight against hate speech motivated by real or perceived sexual orientation, particularly in the online space where there is a growing trend of such actions.

Young people are particularly exposed to hate speech in the online space, but they are also its perpetrators. Research indicates that they extensively use the Internet, especially social media, for information and socialization during their free time, while engaging less in volunteering and social activism. This handbook aims to bridge these inclinations of young people by providing guidelines for using internet platforms to recognize and fight hate speech in those spaces, and thus were safer in them and protected others. Violence in the online space manifests in various manners. Insults, belittlement, threats, the spread of hate speech, and calls for violence are some of the occurrences that can target anyone in the virtual world,” it is stated in the handbook.

“LGBTIQ+ individuals in Montenegro, as one of the most marginalized groups, are often targets of hate speech, violence, and discrimination. The online space has further increased such harmful behavior, providing new dimensions for people to write and share any content, which is accompanied by certain individuals’ “bravery” to discriminate and attack individuals or groups who are different, especially in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. The expansion of social media and online platforms has also led to an increase in hate speech, violence, and cyberbullying, empowering perpetrators while simultaneously enabling the preservation of evidence of these wrongdoings for prosecution by competent authorities,” it is further explained in the handbook.

LGBTIQ+ individuals lack sufficient trust in institutions to report cases of online violence, fearing that their identity will be revealed if they are not outed, that they will be further victimized, that their friends and family will be exposed to violence because of them, and that the sanctions are not deterrent enough for the perpetrators. The consequences of hate speech, violence, and cyberbullying towards LGBTIQ+ individuals can be emotional, mental, and physical, ranging from stress and feelings of isolation to self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and various degrees of physical injuries.

Posting photos/comments promoting violence and discrimination can have serious negative consequences, including social media bans and problems before the competent authorities. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the consequences and carefully consider them before posting content online, as they carry some form of responsibility,” warns the handbook.

As means of protection against hate speech in the online space, violence, and cyberbullying, as well as a strategy to combat them, a range of options is recommended, including unfriending, unfollowing, blocking, restricting, muting, hiding comments, deleting posts and comments, disabling comments on specific posts, and reporting.

In addition to these virtual tools and reporting to the platforms where hate speech has occurred, such cases should also be reported to the Police Administration for further investigation and prosecution.

“When reporting violence, it is important to gather evidence or witnesses to build a strong case against the perpetrator. Digital technologies leave a digital trail that can be used as evidence of the committed act, making it easier to report. The most important thing is not to remain silent about hate speech, especially online, not to continue scrolling when we see homophobic content or cyberbullying, not to turn a blind eye to discrimination and violence, but to react against the perpetrators and provide support to the victim,” concludes the handbook.

Digital Activism Against Hate Speech – A Handbook in the Fight against e-Homophobia/Biphobia/Transphobia, Hatred, and Violence was created as part of the project “Together Against Prejudice!” implemented by the CCE with the financial support of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights. The project aims to improve the level of acceptance of LGBTIQ+ individuals by the citizens of Montenegro to enhance the position of LGBTIQ+ individuals in Montenegrin society and ultimately increase the number of publicly out LGBTIQ+ individuals who freely live their identity.

Željka Ćetković, Active Citizenship Programme Coordinator