How to deal with hate speech?

Hateful, racist or homophobic comments on the internet: you've probably seen them. Many people try to ignore these messages. But actually, it's better to take action. By collectively tackling hate speech, it will not be allowed to become the norm. What can you do? 

Report the message to Facebook or Twitter

Anyone who creates a profile formally accepts the Terms of Service of Facebook or Twitter. The social media companies are committed to removing messages in which people are attacked on the basis of their race, religion or ethnicity. However, this does not happen automatically.

Facebook and Twitter only remove messages after they have been reported by a user. It is therefore important for you to report hateful or discriminatory messages. Reporting is completely anonymous. Based on your report, Facebook and Twitter can decide to take messages offline or even block an account temporarily or permanently.

Ask the page administrator or the moderator to remove the message

Most internet fora, including the Facebook pages of newspapers, have a moderator to keep an eye on things. After all, the administrator is responsible for anything that is posted on the page and this includes the comments on the page. The moderator has the power to take a message offline and can send users a warning or ban them from the forum.

Have you read something hateful or discriminatory? Then contact the moderator and ask for the message to be removed. What if you get no response? Then you can report the message to Unia. Unia can intervene if it is a case of statements that are punishable by law.     

React to the hate speech

Even if you are not personally the victim of hate speech, you can do something about it. For example, you can make it clear that you do not agree with a post or status update. The following tips may be helpful:

  1. Do not target the author, but rather the content of the statement.
  2. Refute false claims where possible with facts. Refer to reliable sources.
  3. Express your disbelief and displeasure, but do not get involved in pointless ‘is-not’/’is-so’ arguments and mutual mudslinging and insults.
  4. Be aware that certain messages are published with the intention to provoke. So don't let yourself get carried away in an emotional and hateful tirade – stick to a calm statement.

React in whatever way feels comfortable for you. Do you prefer not to react directly to the hate speech? Then you could also publish your own positive or nuanced statements via Facebook or Twitter about the same topic or about the group being attacked. This is a subtle way of combating hate speech.   

Report it to Unia

You can also report discriminatory speech to Unia. You can do this using our reporting form. We recommend that you always send a link and a screenshot of the message to us. 

We will investigate whether the statements fall under the legal protection of free speech. If it is a case of incitement to discrimination, hate or violence, then these are statements that are punishable by law and Unia can take further steps. Read more about it here.