The Cost Of Online Hating

Odiare ti Costa is an project to report, and take down, online hate content. Revenge porn, cyber bullying, and verbal abuse are just a few of hate crimes that fill our internet.

Odiare ti Costa

Odiare ti costa is a project to report and take down online hate content. Revenge porn, cyber bullying, and verbal abuse are just a few of the hate crimes that fill our internet.

Instances of hatred and discrimination have lately filled our screens, as we saw with the uproar after the death of person of color George Flyod, which fed the Black Lives Matter movement. Online bullying — cyber-bullying — is an ever-increasing phenomena and so are many other instances of inappropriate and offensive content online.

Social media platforms are a fruitful incubator of negative content and signaling such content can be effective in protecting other users.

Odiare ti costa — Hating has a price

Odiare ti costa (hating has a price) is an initiative to fight hatred on the web. This is carried out through education on digital citizenship, spreading awareness, and supporting victims of online hate crimes.

A project created by the charity Pensare Sociale (think social) to support victims of violence on the web, Odiare ti costa includes in its mission promoting a culture of appropriate vocabulary away from stereotypes and prejudices. They mainly work to apply the European Commission‘s standards of appropriate online conduct.

An online conduct structured through digital citizenship, a process where someone can positively, critically and competently interact with others online. An example would be being able to politely reply to a critical comment on social media. It could be harder for younger people who handle online negativity for the first time, being able to understand that not everything that anyone says is crucially important, or even remotely relevant, to your life.

Pensare Sociale was created up by volunteers, including lawyers, who oversee reported online content sent by other users through the charity’s online form and provide feedback. They also provide online content to counteract these occurrences and provide information on what you can do to report hateful content.

Where does Italy stand?

In 2018, awareness of online hate was increasing, while in 2019, the European Commission was concerned about the amount of hate speech present in Italy online — especially against migrants. However, the European Justice Commissioner at the time, Vera Jourova, stated that this kind of hate is widespread in other member states as well.

A statistical survey in 2018 asked Italian parents if they knew about cyber bullying, and 46% declared they did not know about it. This could imply that not only does hate speech, and other hateful content, go ‘unnoticed’ or misunderstood, but that then an understanding of what online bullying is to younger generations is overlooked. On a positive note, awareness has increased (91%) in Italy, with the greatest increase in awareness compared to other countries (57%) in the European Commission survey.

When it comes to revenge porn, for instance, in 2020 12% of Italians knew a victim of this phenomena. This January, the Italian government declared a newly created plan to fight online hate of various kinds.

The pandemic has worsened the state online with increases of reported online hate crimes and cyber-bullying. The police have recorded a massive peak in a few days in reports. The Fondazione Carolina — created by Paolo Picchio in honor of his daughter, a victim of cyber-bullying — recorded 278 reported online hate crimes just during the month of March, which included 23 for sexting, and 11 for revenge porn.

A new phenomena exploded where chats on Telegram were created for people to share sexual content of their former partners, commonly referred to as revenge porn, with complete strangers.

Freedom of (online) expression

The lockdown has resulted in many parents leaving their children to freely navigate the web unchaperoned, leading to unpleasant consequences. Online classes didn’t help anything: the number of cases increased of teachers confronted online with insults and obscene videos.

It is quite unclear if it is the ease with which people can navigate online nowadays, especially the younger generation, born in a world where the web is as natural as learning how to speak. But it can also be the absence of proper digital citizenship that leads to these events.

Often showing younger generations the consequences of online hate does not stop them from carrying on anyways, so just education cannot be the solution. If you enforce limitations and add censors as a parent, the child will have a friend without filters or censorship on their devices. So which is the right solution? What about those adults who grew up without the internet, but now feel the liberty to express their thoughts because it is so easy to do so?

Just as we are so eager to make use of the resources that are given to us by our planet, regardless of the limitations we have but just because we can, similarly we can now feel free to say, do, and share what we want online, just because we can.

But since we can, should we? Freedom of expression is a whole other topic that would require another (or several) article(s), but it is similar in its application. Just because you can insult someone does not mean that you should.

To these online hate crimes, I am not sure I have the right answer. But I shall share what renowned writer Umberto Eco once said about social media in particular, “it provides legions of idiots the freedom of expression.”

And as we educate the younger and older generations about the impacts of hate crimes, we should also educate them on empathy, and possibly a little on common decency. As the United States of America has demonstrated, a topic like freedom of expression is not always treated correctly. It is crucial that we comprehend that ‘limitations’ are not always an absence of freedom.

And that your actions, always, have a (consequence) cost.

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