‘The explosion of online hate speech represents a very real challenge for teachers’

Students must learn the power of language – both for good and for evil, writes one celebrated educationist in Tes. Without it, they are susceptible to the enemies of truth

Every day our young people are exposed to hate speech. Often in the seclusion of their own bedrooms. This online hatred is directed against women, against the LGBT community, against the disabled, against foreigners and against refugees. The largest proportion is aimed at Muslims.

The nature of the hatred may vary – from dog-whistle calls about “swarms of immigrants” to unprintable outpourings against often faceless victims. If you want to see examples, it is not difficult to find them – on Twitter, YouTube and even in the comments sections of the online press.

And yet this is a world to which many of our young people are exposed. In the most recent study by Ofcom (in 2016) one-third of internet users between the ages of 12 and 15 reported seeing hate speech online during the previous year. The likelihood is that this number is growing along with the relentless expansion of the online world.

Of course, many teachers and many parents are deeply worried about this intrusion into young people’s lives, but – unlike them – we are often unfamiliar with the virtual world of cyberspace. How should we occupy this strange terrain without invading the precious private identities of our children?

Fortunately, we are not alone. There are many organisations working to support those attacked by hate speech and to promote an alternative vision of our world. 

Last year the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) organised the first-ever Summit on Online Hate Speech at City Hall. It was attended by 70 groups – support organisations for targeted groups, human rights groups, local authorities, researchers, the police and CPS. A range of ways to combat online hatred were discussed. These included regulatory measures – recent pressure including from the UK parliament on the social media companies has been important in that respect.  Even more significant has been the promotion of a counter-narrative of hope and humanity, making use of media of all kinds to show what unites us rather than what divides us.

This counter-narrative is being developed across the world. In Europe for example the Council of Europe has created a range of very engaging and relevant materials for young people.

Read the full article ‘The explosion of online hate speech represents a very real challenge for teachers’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Learning, Primary, Safeguarding, Secondary, Social media and Technology.


  1. The definition of hate speech seems to be somebody else’s opinion with which one disagrees. Calling somebody else’s opinion ‘hate speech’ is rather hateful, if you ask me.

  2. ‘Hate speech’ = anything (especially true things) that the fascist Left doesn’t want to hear. So in that sense, the more hate speech the better.

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