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  • Date: 18-05-2016, 17:14

Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech Online

 18-05-2016, 17:14    Category: English, News

Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech Online

Experts recommend promoting self-regulation in online communities, enhancing media literacy, developing tolerant speech strategies as effective tools to overcome hate speech and discrimination on the Internet.

On May 12-13, the 7thCentral Asian Forum "Development of Internet Sphere in Central Asia InternetCA-2016” was held in Almaty (Kazakhstan) on the subject "Calls to Counter Destructive Content on the Internet: Xenophobia, Propaganda, Language of Intolerance”.

The main topics of the discussion referred to media wars, media manipulations, hate speech, propaganda, differences between the freedom of expression and intolerance, understanding of this ways, in order to avoid the total control of the internet and pressure on freedoms. International and regional specialists’ demonstrated best cases, recommendations and held master classes.

Inga Sikorskaya, director of School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan), the leading organization in the region involved in hate speech and discrimination monitoring and researches, demonstrated the results of analysis of Kazakh and Kyrgyz online media, whose comparative study highlighted some similar trends.

First, these are online aggression, growing number of hate groups – a relatively new phenomenon in our internet, and their ideological component, which is based on traditional tools of media wars. The existing hate speech, clichés and stereotypes available on the internet are accompanied by hate messages, sometimes spread in implicit forms and often using fictitious identities. They cover more and more users and are most dangerous.Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech Online

Second, there is still a strong connection between the political agenda and formation of intolerance focusing on certain targets. Emotional users immediately respond to stove-piping spread by hate groups, internet trolls, thus increasing hate speech due to large-scale online aggression. For example, frequent and unjustified references to ethnic backgrounds of persons in posts and articles lead to the growth of intolerant language. Although, in fact, the author of the post is either incompetent, or intentionally uses the manipulation tool to mix ethnic and social topics. It is obvious in the Kyrnet, when journalists and users post about decisions of the authorities related to either Chinese or Canadian investments, where the representatives of these countries immediately become the targets of hate speech. In the Kaznet, such hate against the Chinese was identified by the researchers amid recent land protests related to legislative amendments.

"It is essential now to have all participants of the online communities, persons making decisions on internet issues, as well as those who accuse content creators to hate speech understand the difference between the freedom of expression and the incitement to hatred", I. Sikorskaya said.

According to official data, in 2015 Kazakhstan registered 88 criminal cases on "incitement of social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious hatred”. Many of them were related to various statements on the internet. Therefore, understanding of the freedom of expression and responsibility for statements remains pertinent."We cannot handle today’s internet challenges without it,” I. Sikorskaya added.Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech Online

According to her, the incidents of intolerance both in Kyrgyz and in Kazakh internet were often identified in posts and articles discussing the influence of the Russian propaganda on the audiences of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the relations between Russia and Ukraine and the West, and their influence on the EAEU states. The development of state languages and the reluctance of the people to master them in full, the historical past of Kyrgyzstan (the tragedy of 1916, when the country was a part of tsarist Russia) and Kazakhstan (forced famine of 1932-1933, when the country was a part of former USSR), the Islamic factor, war in Syria are another subject category, where dehumanizing statements were found.

Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech OnlineAlia Moldalieva, a Bishkek-based media expert, studying the manipulative influence in the media and online environment, elaborated on the xenophobic trends in the Kyrnet. 

The expert pointed out that the online environment became the means of discrimination of vulnerable groups through the demonstration of the facts of xenophobia in the news, video, photo, justification of one party or another. This is how the violence and disorders are caused. Moldalieva gave an example when the videos of abuse of representatives of vulnerable groups were spread online. Almost in all cases of spreading of such form of intolerance, hate speech against minorities is growing, users get involved into discussions using abusive language, post comments containing calls for violence and discrimination.

"It is impossible to specify only one source of xenophobia with the purpose of political manipulation,” the speaker emphasized. "In fact, various forces use it on the Kyrgyz internet.”

Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech OnlineAizat Shakieva, an activist of the Bishkek Feminist Initiatives, reported about the existing relationship between the intolerance towards women and girls and their struggle for their rights.

She revealed a series of facts of online harassment of activists on the Kyrnet, where they were exposed to abuses and threats coming from users. For example, the analysis of online coverage of the march on March 8, 2016 dedicated to the International Day of Struggle for Women’s Rights revealed a flow of abusive posts, including from users thinking that the strengthening of women’s rights was "unacceptable and offensive for the Muslim society”. Almost 100 negative comments with xenophobic connotations and offenses were found under the video posted online, where activists were talking about their discrimination in the families and at schools, about gender stereotypes in the society.

A.Shakieva told that her report threw light only on the smallest portion of online harassment. "The patriarchal society finds it comfortable and favorable to see women in a traditional way,” the speaker said. "As soon as she tries to resist these standards, stereotypes and gender discrimination through activism, she encounters what she resists again.”

Opposite trends can be seen on the internet of Uzbekistan with its offline and online strict censorship, where the majority of media content is the state propaganda. The targets of ideological attacks are often Muslims, foreign NGOs, rights activists, freelance journalists, LGBT communities.

Experts Share Their Experience, Wisdom of Combating Xenophobia and Hate Speech Online"The virtual network has become the vehicle of propaganda,” Sergey Naumov, Uzbekistan-based media expert and regional assistant of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia, reported. It became even more evident after the authorities realized it was useless to block websites, which users could skillfully avoid by using modern technology. Naumov emphasized that the main part of network propaganda on the Uzbek internet was speeches by President Islam Karimov circulated in great numbers.

Local propagandists focus mainly on the young people, who are active users of social networks.  Alternative social media, currently counting thirty-eight, are created on the Uzbek internet to make users learn not from "strange values”, as ideologists often call the western culture, be less active on Facebook. Yet only eight of them are active. For example, the popular network Muloqot has over 170 thousand registered users, whereas there are three times more Uzbek users registered on Facebook.


                                                     Alina Amilaeva, Program Assistant, School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia


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