An important topic that featured throughout the entire re:publica TEN was the conversation surrounding #Hatespeech and the question of how members of society interact with each other online. Over the course of different sessions and together with our speakers, we wanted to analyse the situation and try and find a way out of this seemingly hopeless state of affairs: Let’s make the internet great again!
The discourse has broken down: Individuals or whole groups are being held up to shame and, as a chaser, we have to stomach all kinds of imagery that moves well beyond the boundaries of good taste – that is, unless the content has been sorted out by "clickworkers" beforehand, thereby saving us from having to deal with that pixel-based hell. We get the feeling that, although the internet has developed into the main medium of communication (1!111), the segmentation of society is spreading faster than we can say "Crowdfunding". In October of 2015, playwright Falk Richter stated in an interview that "a climate has established itself in the media, in talk shows and demonstrations – and, of course, on the internet –, in which we people feel free to uninhibitedly hate, instigate and discriminate".
This has a lot to do with how the culture of dialogue has changed. How do we form our social sphere? We are interested in better understanding the technical infrastructures that can end up obstructing a real exchange. How can freedom of opinion and speech be made compatible with the internet in a way that retains a tolerable atmosphere? We are also concerned with how we deal with already existent negative currents, both psychologically and methodically. We give the stage to those who are usually judged and condemned, while keeping an eye on the role played by blogs, journalism, the platform providers, and politics. This is, not least, also an opportunity for some introspection on our part: What can we change ourselves? To that end, we propagate: Dialogue instead of a vicious circle! Which strategies seem promising? To illustrate this, re:publica veteran Friedemann Karig drew parallels between the internet and puberty in his session.
Other program highlights of our #Hatespeech focus included: Heather Armstrong, famous blogger, presenting a new approach for personally handling verbal attacks and the journalist Carolin Emcke giving an overview of the phenomenon of "organised hate". Editor Ingrid Brodnig looked behind the psychology of fake stories: What motivates users to spread lies and what can be done about it? Her lecture gave you some insights. There were also workshops on offer, for example on how we should deal with stalking. Besides highlighting courses of action for the individual, Sarah T. Roberts was holding a lecture on the practicals of commercial content moderation and Rikke Frank Jørgensen was speaking on the role platforms play in the adherence to human rights.
Photo Credit: K-Screen Shots (CC BY 2.0)