QCEA launches anti-hate speech campaign

The Quaker Council for European Affairs has launched 'Choose Respect', a campaign tackling anti-migrant hate speech

The Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) has launched a campaign aimed at tackling antimigrant hate speech in preparation for the European Parliamentary elections in May.

The ‘Choose Respect’ campaign was started after QCEA researched anti-migrant speech last year and found that, according to Martin Leng, communication and fundraising coordinator for QCEA, ‘hate speech on online comment sections is often unchecked and this has consequences in real life’.

He told the Friend: that one study showed that spikes in online hate speech often correlated with spikes in hate crimes against migrants in the real world. He said: ‘With the European elections coming up, we realised there can also be a correlation between hate speech online and how people vote. We talked to many social media companies and the feeling was that no matter how much they try, it’s never going to be enough to moderate hate speech effectively. The general finding is to try and moderate unpleasant stuff, but also to encourage more positive conversations.’

Current polling suggests that up to a third of seats in the European Parliament may be won by the populist right wing. Inspired by a Swedish group called ‘I am here’, which tracks online hate speech and attempts to counter it by responding with facts and positivity, the ‘Choose Respect’ campaign seeks to ‘build a more positive narrative’.

A Twitter feed for the campaign encourages followers to respond to xenophobia used by politicians on the social media site. One tweet said: ‘Anti-migrant hate speech is all too common – even among Europe’s politicians’.

It urges social media users to ‘work together to get informed’, and includes regular ‘myth-busters’, such as one which said: ‘Many people think migrants and refugees are still coming to Europe in huge numbers – but in 2018 new asylum requests dropped back to below pre-2014 levels.’ It also acts as a ‘hate speech tracker’ that aims to follow as many MEPS and assistants as possible.

Martin Leng explained: ‘If we see any hateful xenophobic messages, we can respond by posting links to facts and messages of positivity. It’s only been going a week and it’s going really well. We want as many Europeans as possible to get involved.’

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