Stop Hate Speech

Stop Hate Speech explores the spread of hate speech online and possible courses of action for dealing with hostilities and insults that target a person or group based on their identity.

Hate Heat

ЖṄ80XS, 2022, © Rebecca Morganti-Pfaffhauser

Many studies point to an increasingly serious problem in online debates: hate speech, a term that refers to derogatory or discriminatory language about people or groups based on their identity, for example their gender, ethnicity, or religion. A disproportionately high number of online hate speech incidents target women or members of ethnic minorities. Online hate speech often has severe offline consequences for those affected. And, although hate speech generally concentrates on individuals, it also has a far-reaching impact on the communities targeted and on society as a whole.

Research and opinions differ on the best strategies to curb hate speech. Moderation of posts and comments by social media platforms and traditional media or legal provisions stipulated by governments may be effective, yet at the same time infringe on freedom of speech. ‘Counterspeech’ is an alternative tactic that involves politically active people presenting a counter narrative to put a stop to hate speech without constraining freedom of speech.

In the Stop Hate Speech research project, randomized field experiments investigate the effectiveness of various counterspeech strategies in combating hate speech on the internet. The research team first developed methods based on artificial intelligence to detect hate speech automatically. In the second project phase, users engaging in hate speech encountered one of the counterspeech strategies. One of those tactics attempts to spark empathy with those affected. Another strategy highlights the offline consequences that such online behavior can have for users who post hate speech.

The experimental set-up, designed to ensure the counterspeech strategies were allocated at random, allowed the researchers to calculate precisely how much the various interventions influenced perpetrators’ future behavior. This included appraising any changes in the frequency or toxicity of hate speech tweets, as well as noting deletion of such tweets and the extent to which other users also adopted counterspeech methods. The results of an initial experiment revealed that empathy-based strategies in particular can provide an effective way to combat hate speech.

"Stop Hate Speech" digital posters – Anagram it!

To create digital posters linked to Stop Hate Speech, students from the Interaction Design BA at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) used word play with anagrams. The aim was for viewers to interact with the posters in public spaces.

THIS NEVER HAPPENED – EVEN THIS HAPPENED, 2022, Lukman Aščić & Audrey Lohmann, © ZHdK

In small teams, ideas about "Stop Hate Speech" were researched, discussed, and provoked through playful design and creation techniques. The students picked examples of hate speech from social media and transformed the original intention by shifting the letters around to form an anagram. In addition, they also selected terms related to these issues and juxtaposed them with anagrams of those words. HATE becomes HEAT, GARCE (bitch) turns into GRÂCE, HURE (whore) is transformed into RUHE (calm).

GARCE – GRÂCE, 2022, Luis Praxmarer & Tanja Landolt, © ZHdK

The research work of UHZ and ETH served as a basis for the exploration and implementation of the interactive posters. Anagrams of hate speech were formulated to recontextualise them and subvert their original meaning, before being further investigated through a form-finding process. Students explored issues of reduction, expression, conciseness and boldness to realize posters that interact with the viewer. After the analogue design process, the interactive posters were programmed in Javascript.

GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM, 2022, Mo Bünzli & Carina Good, © ZHdK

«Go back to where you came from»

is a term used against people with a migration background (or people mistakenly thought to have one). Here, the term is visually transformed in a positive, playful way.
Likewise, the racist imagery of the «Schäfchenplakat» (sheep poster), a poster by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) for the deportation initiative, is reinterpreted. The flock of black and white sheep symbolises a common home in Switzerland.

HATE – HEAT, 2022, Lars Ziegler & Matthias Nägeli, © ZHdK

Hate and the feeling of hatred, especially against groups and peoples often stems from a very deep-rooted fear of otherness. This angst of opening up and interacting with one another about differences in culture or interests leads to ever deeper misunderstandings.
The heat of an argument, heat from a fire, the sun’s heat – although sometimes greatly destructive, is what has the potential to bring us to a new level of understanding and tolerance.

IMMIGRANTS OUT – MIGRATION MUST, 2022, Sonja Cowley / Giovanna León, © ZHdK

Just like humans, birds have many reasons to migrate; from changes in day length, low temperatures, changes in food supplies or even genetic predisposition.
In the last few years, the rhetoric around migration issues has become increasingly infused with fear. To be more specific, in Switzerland, there have been several movements that target migration as a dangerous and uncontrollable event.
In defence of the right of free movement, which we believe should be a human right regardless of borders and nations, we aimed to honour migrants by showcasing migration as what it truly is; a natural phenomenon as old as life on earth.

HURE – RUHE, 2022, Loïc Hommel / Nanthatchaporn Janthasom, © ZHdK

With the help of anagrams, the interactive poster attempts to deal with hate speech to playfully invalidate its negativity. The focus is on the terms whore (Hure) and calmness (Ruhe), which are invalidated in the interaction between visitor and graphic in an abstract representation of points. The colloquial insult is in a sense reappropriated. In the pictorial conversation, the hateful and sexist slur is transformed into something positive.

STONEWALL – STOLEN LAW, 2022, Lyvia Muniz / Benjamin Eggstein, © ZHdK

The 1960s and the preceding decades were unfriendly times for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Even in hubs of progression such as New York city same-sex relationships were illegal.

The Stonewall Riots, began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club, which then led to a riot. The Stonewall Riots catalyzed the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world, leading to today's Pride Parades.

YOU WERE ASKING FOR IT FAKE OWNERSHIP, 2022, Lea Bischoff / Elena Walther, © ZHdK

Hate speech affects people of all genders. Even victims of sexual assault are not spared. «She practically asked for it» is, unfortunately, a phrase thrown at women and girls in particular. If victims are perceived to wear certain clothes, they forfeit even the possession of their own bodies. We hold up a mirror to this disturbed perception of ownership.

Hate Speech Entwuerfe

Draft collection
, 2022, Lukman Aščić & Audrey-Meret Lohmann, Mo Bünzli & Carina Good, Lars Ziegler & Matthias Naegeli, Sonja Cowley & Giovanna Yanireth León Briceno, Loïc Hommel & Nanthatchaporn Janthasom, Luis Praxmarer & Tanja Landolt, Elena Walther & Lea Bischoff, Lyvia Muniz Gomes Wägli & Benjamin Eggstein, © ZHdK

Related research

Dominik Hangartner, Gloria Gennaro, Sary Alasiri, Nicholas Bahrich, Alexandra Bornhoft, Joseph Boucher, Buket Buse Demirci, Laurenz Derksen, Aldo Hall, Matthias Jochum, Maria Murias Munoz, Marc Richter, Franziska Vogel, Felix Wüthrich, Salomé Wittwer, Fabrizio Gilardi, and Karsten Donnay, «Empathy-based Counterspeech Can Reduce Racist Hate Speech in a Social Media Field Experiment», in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2021.

Collaborators Stop Hate Speech

Team Science:

Project leaders: Prof. Dr. Karsten Donnay, Prof. Dr. Fabrizio Gilardi, Department of Political Science, UZH, Prof. Dr. Dominik Hangartner, Public Policy Group, ETH Zurich
Project managers: Dr. Philip Grech, Selina Kurer, Public Policy Group, ETH Zurich
Postdocs: Dr. Laura Bronner, Dr. Gloria Gennaro, Public Policy Group, ETH Zurich, Dr. Ana Kotarcic, Department of Political Science, UZH
PhD: Maël Kubli, Department of Political Science, UZH
Predoc: Laurenz Derksen, Public Policy Group, ETH Zurich
Data scientist: Dr. Bruno Wüest, Forschungsstelle Sotomo
Auxiliary assistants: Osama Abdullah, Department of Political Science, UZH, Nick Bachmann, Sotomo Research Center, Maxime Bataillard, Florian Curvaia, Public Policy Group, ETH Zurich, Florian Eblenkamp, Marc Eggenberger, Stephanie Fierz, Department of Political Science, UZH, Rachel Kunstmann, Public Policy Group, ETH Zurich,
Felicia Mändli, Fabio Melliger, Mattia Mettler, Paula Moser, Alexandra Nagel, Jonathan Progin, Jennifer Roberts, Department of Political Science, UZH
Intern: Cyril Bosshard, Sotomo Research Center

Team ZHdK:

Module leaders Reactive Signs: Luke Franzke, Rebecca Morganti-Pfaffhauser, Interaction Design, ZHdK
Design Interactive Posters: Lukman Aščić & Audrey-Meret Lohmann, Mo Bünzli & Carina Good, Lars Ziegler & Matthias Naegeli, Sonja Cowley & Giovanna Yanireth León Briceno, Loïc Hommel & Nanthatchaporn Janthasom, Luis Praxmarer & Tanja Landolt, Elena Walther & Lea Bischoff, Lyvia Muniz Gomes Wägli & Benjamin Eggstein, Students Interaction Design, ZHdK

Team Civil Society:

Project leaders: Sophie Achermann, Kathrin Bertschy, alliance F
Project staff: Morgane Bonvallat, Sasha Rosenstein, alliance F

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