#STOPHATE

#Stophate Project Brief

SOS Malta

May 2018

 

The #stophate project is a one year project funding by the VOPS scheme designed to tackle hate speech online in Malta.

 

Hate speech in Malta is a major issue. Research shows that hate speech is widespread and that underreporting is a contributing factor to its proliferation. The research done for the eMore project shows that there was a steady increase in the use of a number of keywords pertaining to discrimination (e.g. xenophobia, intolerance, and sexism) within newspapers from 2014 to 2015. It is also clear that hate speech laws are often misinterpreted and/or underused. Moreover, recent events serve to highlight the need for healthy debate and dialogue in a functioning democratic society. In view of this, the #stophate project seeks to address these concerns by tackling the proliferation of hate among online media forums and promoting healthy debate and dialogue in its place. 

 

This project emphasises the role of active citizenship in the development of an inclusive society by bridging the gap between civil society, volunteers, law enforcement, and the media. The motivation of this is the fact that currently, some online newspapers have no moderation procedures and the Times of Malta for example decided to completely close the comments section following articles on certain topics (such as articles about migrants and court hearings). Neither of these are seen as effective measures for ensuring a healthy dialogue amongst civil society. Whilst the former approach, in its extreme form, may act as a breeding ground for hate speech, the latter can be seen stifle dialogue and free speech. With free speech comes responsibility and as soon as free speech becomes hate speech, in certain forms it is a crime.  Despite the fact hate crimes are included in the constitution; there are few reports and even fewer convictions for crimes with a hate bias. This is also another aspect that needs to be tackled.

 

As part of the #stophate project, we will establish a partnership with a local paper and we will train volunteers to review and moderate comments in online newspaper forums in an attempt to promote a more inclusive society; combat hate speech; and elevate active citizenship. This project includes research into the phenomena of hate speech online and a rigorous legal analysis of hate speech. These will feed into the development of a comprehensive training course for volunteers from civil society and also for law enforcement professionals on how to identify hate speech and hate crime. Through this approach we seek to ensure all stakeholders (citizens, law enforcement and the media) take the necessary action to combat hate speech.