10 steps cities can take to combat hate speech - Learning outcomes from the capacity building workshop by ECCAR & Facing Facts

On May 28th, ECCAR successfully concluded the two-day capacity-building workshop for ECCAR member cities and their partners with trainers from the Facing Facts project. While the first workshop day covered aspects of online hate speech, hate speech response systems, the “pyramid of hate,” and tropes of antisemitic hate speech, the second day focused on tropes of anti-Muslim racist hate speech and intensive group discussions on case studies. 

Based on ECCAR’s surveys with member cities on their projects and policies related to both anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism, hate speech is one of the most underrepresented areas of policy work. Yet, the ECCAR Guidebook on anti-Muslim racism mapped some exemplary local actions by member cities. For instance, the city of Malmö (p.119) set up a pilot project, “Safe and Secure Digital City,” to address questions of security and safety on the “digital streets and squares” where many Malmö residents “meet each other,” such as Facebook groups. The City of Graz (p.129) again launched the “Ban Hate” application for citizens to report online hate speech and connected it to the Styria region’s anti-discrimination office. Finally, Barcelona (p.65) importantly emphasized that local action plans such as theirs are an effective tool for putting anti-Muslim racism on the political agenda of the city to prevent hate speech. 

As the workshop discussions showed, most cities have also not yet adopted a working definition for either anti-Muslim racism or antisemitism. However, having a definition helps in understanding the frequently complex and nuanced manifestations of anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism, which can be complex and subtle. A working definition also serves as a basis for developing policies and strategies to address and combat anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism in different forms, such as hate speech. ECCAR has published a working definition of anti-Muslim racism that can guide member cities in this endeavor.  

As several participants in the capacity building workshop on May 14 and May 28 reported, their future work will include disseminating their learning outcomes to their colleagues and pushing for more structured action within the respective city administrations for projects tackling hate speech. 

To support its member cities in designing sustainable policies, ECCAR has compiled learning outcomes for city administrations and their partners for combating hate speech on local levels. 

1. Implement anti-discrimination policies prohibiting hate speech in all public spaces, including online platforms, public facilities, and government buildings.

2. Establish clear reporting mechanisms for incidents of hate speech in cooperation between civil society actors, advocacy groups that specialize in addressing bias and discrimination, and the municipal anti-discrimination office.

3. Conduct regular surveys and data collection with civil society actors and the municipal anti-discrimination office to assess the prevalence of hate speech.

4. Provide training programs for municipal employees, including law enforcement officers, on effectively identifying and addressing hate speech.

5. Cooperate with local schools and non-formal educational institutions to organize workshops for youth focusing on understanding the dangers of online hate speech and its effects on social platforms. 

6. Work with local social media platforms to monitor and remove hate speech content that violates municipal anti-discrimination standards, ensuring a safer online environment for residents.

7. Incorporate unconscious bias in all training and education measures on hate speech so that individuals can become aware of their biases and learn how to mitigate their impact on decision-making and interactions with others.

8. Allocate resources to support community-led initiatives that promote positive messaging and counter hateful narratives through educational campaigns and cultural events.

9. Establish partnerships with legal experts and advocacy groups to provide legal assistance and mental health support to individuals who are targets of hate speech 

10. Develop public awareness campaigns such as advertisements, social media initiatives, and community events that raise awareness about unconscious bias and its effects and emphasize the importance of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect.