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Using Data to Combat Hate Speech

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Hate speech and other social issues don’t easily translate into hard numbers. But without data, it’s extremely difficult for institutions to develop programs and gain support from governing bodies.

On social media, derogatory speech geared towards certain groups can be very explicit or buried in innuendo. If aimed broadly, there’s no one person to report it to. Also, the root of the issue often depends on the context, making it very hard to identify and measure.

Intervention is the only way to counter online hate speech before it turns into destructive or even life-threatening real-world action.

How Does Spain Challenge Hate Speech?

Navarra, a region in Spain with a population of around 650,000, is taking matters into its own hands. In collaboration with local grassroots organizations, Navarra promotes peaceful intercultural coexistence and racial tolerance through education and the prevention of prejudiced sentiments. And now, they have data to guide them in the right direction.

“We can push through better hate-speech policies if we have better data. The challenge is getting it,” says José María González Odériz, the Government of Navarra’s Director of Service, Co-Existence and Human Rights.

How Does Citibeats Help Spain Address Hate Speech?

Through machine learning and AI text analytics, Citibeats cuts through the social media clutter and extracts relevant local information. It does this in two ways.

First, it separates hate speech—messages focused on racism, discrimination, and xenophobia—from other speech on social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Next, Citibeats technology analyzes the typology, origin, and frequency of these messages. It then sorts the information into different categories predefined jointly with the Navarra government and compares the types of hate speech in different regions of Navarra to help policymakers localize their efforts. Automated email alerts flag the department when activity peaks and requires attention.

In essence, Citibeats is Navarra’s hate speech cyber watchdog.

What’s the Goal?

The government of Navarra plans to use insights from Citibeats to shape its reports against hate speech and guide local efforts, educational programs, and awareness days to address issues in real time.

For policymakers to have any hope of making a real impact, they must know which hate speech topics are common, how they’re discussed, where the conversations occur, and how they spread.

What’s Next?

While the internet has upsides, like democratizing information and connecting the world, it also has dark sides. The problem is that the “dark side” doesn’t have a face. With the viral aspect of social media and the creators’ ability to remain anonymous, hate speech is that much more difficult to prevent.

Hate speech is a real and serious issue.

As tensions continue to rise surrounding immigration, dangerous online dialogue creates divisions within communities.

The goal of Citibeats is to provide the tool that social organizations need to track online hate speech and produce timely, relevant counter-narratives.

Instead of using social media as a vehicle for spreading hate and division, it can become a tool for social organizations, education centers, government, and society at large to fight for respectful coexistence and peace.