GAAMAC partner launches the Digital Peace Project to respond to growing online hate

30 January 2023
GAAMAC’s partner, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) has launched its Digital Peace Project, to uphold the UN Strategy and Plan of Action Against Hate Speech, and contribute to Canadian national efforts to mitigate online hate.

Disinformation and violence online have become an unfortunate reality across the globe. A growing body of research shows that women, Indigenous peoples, religious and ethnic minorities, and members of the 2SLGBTQI+* community are targets of vicious online attacks and disinformation campaigns often carried out with malign intent and coordination.

Online hatred stifles voices offline too

While identity-based discrimination and hate is nothing new, online hate has an increasing impact on the offline sphere. For example, those on the receiving end may not feel safe in participating in public forums, share their opinion, and pursue vocations that may put them in the spotlight.

“The strength of our democracy is dependent upon having such members of society actively engaged, and as such this discrimination and violence online can be seen as a direct threat to our democratic institutions,” says MIGS’s Project Leader Lauren Salim.

The Digital Peace Project proposes to give a platform to communities that have received hateful comments online, amplifying their voice and their suggestions, to provide concrete policy recommendations on how to better address online hate in Canada.

It will accomplish this by engaging with civil society actors, particularly those belonging to ethnic, cultural, religious and visible minority communities.

A survey, roundtables and a social media bot

The first step of the project is a public perception survey on Canadian’s perceptions towards content moderation, conducted in partnership with RIWI. The survey, launched earlier this month, asks questions such as: How do you define online hate? Is existing content moderation enough? Who should be involved? Would you like to see more or less government involvement? The results will inform policy implications and recommendations in some follow-up focus groups in the coming months.

To better engage a wider audience, a series of public roundtables will also be organized, each focusing on a community that is frequently the target of online hate. The first session, “Breaking Down Online Hate and Violence Against Women” was held on 24 January 2023, in partnership with the National Council of Women of Canada. Future roundtable themes include online hate against 2SLGBTQI+ individuals, Indigenous peoples, religious identity, and ethnic or racial groups. They will be advertised via MIGS’ newsletter and on GAAMAC’s events page.

Finally, With the help of Areto Labs, MIGS will launch a social media bot to track hateful and inciting accounts and flagging instances of hate speech.

At the end of the project, MIGS will publish a public policy article highlighting the findings from the project’s activities. The project is funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

*2Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex

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