Virtual Lecture – Building Individual and Community Resilience to Manipulative Information Online Hate – Lessons Learned

Wednesday 16 February 2022, 10:00 am – 11:00 am EST, online (Washington DC, USA)


Online hate speech has real life consequences and is often used as a tool of radicalization, conflict, and polarization. While hate speech has been part of propaganda for centuries, social media has given it sharper teeth by creating conditions where it truly thrives. Effective ways to address it must disrupt why and how it works. Powered by emotional engagement: “enrage to engage” is an effective formula for attracting and keeping attention. Malign disinformation actors, violent extremism organizations, conspiracy theorists, and hate groups intentionally trigger disgust, outrage, and fear to exasperate grievances, because humans are programmed to share such information widely. Social media algorithms boost such content because engagement means advertising revenues. Hate-based movements grow strong once social media enables individuals to seek out and join like-minded communities which validate and reinforce beliefs that marginalize and attack the “others”. They infiltrate neutral social media circles to recruit the vulnerable and build support for hate narratives. This chapter will review the nature and impact of Learn to Discern programming, an approach that recognizes the roots of vulnerability to disinformation and hate speech in the human “operational system” and incentives baked into the social media infrastructure. Based on this awareness, it equips those who consume news and posts with critical thinking skills to navigate the polluted information space in a healthy, responsible, empathy-driven way. Assessments in countries such as Jordan, Ukraine, and Serbia show that Learn to Discern empowers individuals to overcome emotional manipulation, biases, and influence from traditional and social media to regain agency needed for discerning engagement.


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