Digital

civil courage

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Jay’s experience really hits home and leaves us speechless. All too often, the internet acts as a breeding ground for hatred and incitement. However, we are not powerless – and the more people there are who show civil courage online, the more likely it is that the internet will become a place where everyone can feel safe. We can make it a place where people can come together based on democratic rules.
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An attack on us all

The internet offers a world of possibilities and inspiration. It brings people together. However, the internet is increasingly being misused to marginalize or intimidate certain people. People can lie, insult and slander each other as much as they want to on social media. Some see the anonymity of the internet as a license to attack other people without any consequences, and such online attacks spread rapidly as they attract hangers-on. At first, this concentrated hate leaves us speechless. Attacks are often aimed at things like a person’s skin color, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age, disability, or religion. Alternatively, people might be targeted because they belong to a certain section of society or because they have a particular job. Political viewpoints are also targeted. Ultimately, anyone can be affected.

Hate divides
society

So what is the actual purpose of these attacks? It depends. As you might expect, “silencing” is all about getting specific people to stop speaking out. For example, activists who champion the human rights of refugees online, advocate for women’s rights, or – like Jay – seek to promote transgender issues don’t have to wait long until hateful comments start coming their way. Many people who are affected in this way pull back because they don’t feel able to cope with such huge pressure. Of course, that is exactly what their attackers want. If they can shut down anyone who thinks differently than them, then it appears as if their opinion is the only one that counts. What’s more, important viewpoints are then absent that would otherwise help shape opinions – all because those voices have been silenced. This is how extreme political views are able to spread, which threatens our democracy.

The situation with internet trolls is a little different. Trolls seem simply to enjoy abusing other people and are not selective in who they target. They thrive on provocation. Even though they are a smaller group than that involved in silencing, their attacks don’t just affect their victims – they ultimately have an impact on all of us.

If insults and hate speech become more readily available, at some point you’re going to get used to seeing them. And suddenly, statements that were previously taboo and considered extreme become socially acceptable.

Quiz

Is that allowed?

Abuse someone in person on the street and you risk prosecution. So what is the situation with social media?

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Question 1 of 4

Tom writes on Facebook „Michaela has a different one in bed every night!“

Right

Wrong

Deliberately asserting or spreading untrue facts that violate the honor of a person and degrade their reputation in public opinion is called "slander" and is prohibited.

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Question 2 of 4

I am sharing the picture of a swastika online – its supposed to be funny, though!

Right

Wrong

The swastika is a forbidden symbol and may not be used or distributed in Germany. Both is a criminal offence.

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Too bad. Would you like to try again?Not bad for the beginning.Great result!

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Question 3 of 4

Gerd posts on Instagram „Islam is not a part of Germany!“

Right

Wrong

But what is decisive is the context! If one's own opinion is recognizable ("I think that....."), such a statement is permitted. But if persons are discriminated against or disparaged, it is not allowed and no longer falls under freedom of opinion.

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Question 4 of 4

Renate comments „Punch holes in the boats! Refugees only steal our German money!“

Right

Wrong

That is incitement of the people. Anyone who incites hatred, violence and arbitrariness against a certain group of people or attacks the human dignity of others, thus disturbing public peace, is liable to prosecution.

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Sock puppets and love speech

Are you wondering what cute little sock puppets have to do with online hate? Here are some interesting terms related to online etiquette:

1Sock puppet

Second and third accounts belonging to one and the same person that communicate with each other and back each other up so it looks as if several different people are talking together.

2Troll

A person who spreads a breathtaking number of negative and provocative comments to disrupt discussions.

3Hate speech

Hate speech means that people are demeaned or attacked, or that hatred or violence is incited against people.

4Love speech

The opposite of hate speech. Love speech is a call for appreciative and respectful language.

5Online uproar

An online avalanche of derogatory criticism aimed at a person or company.

6Silencing

A huge outpouring of hate with the aim of forcing alternative opinions out of social media.

Get over your shock!

Although almost all of us have come across hateful comments online before, very few people actually do anything about it. Instead, when confronted by hate, we are paralyzed by shock. We don’t know whether we should respond or how, so we quickly scroll on. How could we respond, take a stand against hate, and make discussions more constructive?

“Digital civil courage” podcast

“Digital civil courage” podcast

Countering hate

Hate cannot be allowed to become normal. Authors of hate comments cannot usually be swayed, but there are many silent readers who often haven’t yet formed a clear opinion. We can encourage these people to think twice, offer them alternative viewpoints, and give them the courage to take a stand against hate, too.

How do you do that? Examples:

1Show solidarity!

2Stay calm and don’t let yourself be provoked

3Use fact checkers!

4Report posts or comments that breach rules!

5Practice taking on the haters!

Hate and incitement have no place in our society – not on the internet and not in real life, where words unfortunately become deeds. We believe everyone should be able to enter into dialog with each other on the basis of fairness. We are taking specific steps to pursue this aim. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges

Making sure everybody can #TAKEPART without being afraid

At Deutsche Telekom, we passionately believe that people should be able to utilize the benefits of the digital era. That includes doing everything we can to ensure they enjoy their travels in the digital world and don’t have to worry that they are going to be attacked, marginalized, or hurt. We won’t stop until everyone is able to #TAKEPART in the digital sphere without being afraid. That is why we are actively working to shape a positive culture of dialog on the internet.

#nohatespeech

#nohatespeech

In the summer of 2020, we launched our #nohatespeech campaign. The campaign features real people who have been victims of hate online. The promotional video for the campaign uses Jay’s story to illustrate just how hurtful incitement, abusive language, and insults can be. We want to draw attention to this unacceptable situation. The campaign is intended to raise awareness and support victims - and above all to encourage internet users, so that more people practice civil courage and hate does not become the norm.

We are pursuing partnerships

Countering hate
with knowledge

1#DABEI-Geschichten (#TAKEPART stories)

2Teachtoday

3SCROLLER media magazine for kids

We are taking a stand.

The far right is resurgent in Europe. The pandemic is also causing a great deal of insecurity and anxiety among many people. All that is creating a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and fake news. In our podcast series, we provide information for anyone who would like to know more about the following issues.

Digital civil courage

Digital civil courage

The power of language

The power of language

Filter bubbles and echo chambers

Filter bubbles and echo chambers

First-aid course for the internet?

First-aid course for the internet?

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories

Online hate

Online hate

Manipulation on the internet

Manipulation on the internet

Fake news

Fake news

When words become weapons

When words become weapons

Cause for optimism

Democracy and human rights cannot be taken for granted. That is why we have to champion them – so we don’t lose these achieve­ments. According to a 2019 analysis by the Bundes­krimi­nal­amt (Federal Criminal Police Office) in Germany, around 77 percent of hate online comes from the right-wing scene. We should not sit back and wait for new legal frameworks to be put in place to regu­late online activities. Instead, we need to empower ourselves to navigate the digital world independently. That includes every one of us showing civil courage so that hate does not become normal.

There is good reason to be optimistic! It has been scientifically proven that if we reinforce our own skills through experience or experimentation, we become more courageous and are more likely to step in when something is not right. Moreover, we feel better when we transform an unpleasant feeling into specific actions. Studies have also shown that a factual response to hate and incitement on the internet can demonstrably defuse the discus­sions. Furthermore, people who demonstrate civil courage are not alone! So far, around 45 000 people have come together under the #ichbinhier (#Iamhere) hashtag alone to show that they are against hate and marginalization on the internet – every day!

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