In online discussions about issues people will disagree and all have the right to express their views. While some engagement can cross into the realms of online hate, disagreement is not itself bullying or abuse. This is especially true when the disagreement is relevant to the topic of the discussion thread, article or page and is kept to the discussion in that location.
Online discussions can become uncivil, impolite and inappropriate while still falling below the threshold of online hate. This is most likely to occur when someone adopts an unpopular position and seeks to advocate their view in a forum which largely has an alternative view.
Some online discussion will cross the threshold into online hate. This can occur when the discussion becomes overly personal, and extreme attacks are made against a person rather than disagreeing with what they are saying. Comments suggesting a discussion participant kill themself, for example, may fall into this category.
Disagreements can also cross the threshold when people will not keep the disagreement in the space where it occurred. For example, if some starts commenting on a person’s own profile, contacting their friends, talking about that person on other pages, or setting up pages on Facebook or videos on YouTube etc naming and attack an individual.
The Role of the Online Hate Prevention Institute
The Online Hate Prevention Institute deals with a wide range of serious incidents of online hate. We are a small charity with very limited resources. Every incident we engage with means others cannot be addressed. We try to focus on those issues which have the largest impact on society as a whole, as well as those issues with the greatest impact on individuals. Our public work usually looks at issues of group based hate, such as racism, religious vilification, misogyny, homophobia and others. We also undertake other work which is not discussed publicly and which relates to public safety or the safety of individuals.
While we do try and cover topics such as cyberbullying and serious trolling regularly in our work, we can’t deal with all the serious cases which occur. OHPI often represents the very last port of call after approaches to police and lawyers have failed. In light of this we also can’t mediate robust debate or conversations which become uncivil but fall short of incitement and hate. We just don’t have the resources for that, and it isn’t part of our role.
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