Countering online harassment and hate speech

⌚︎ 3 min.

Learning resource

Countering online harassment and hate speech

Discussion on the topic of hate speech; guidelines on how to react appropriately; role-play activity.
Proposal for use
Action and reaction in case of radicalisation
Target group
Age 15-25
Pedagogical method
  • Being able to react appropriately when a hate message is posted online or communicated in a face-to-face conversation.
  • Learning some tips on how to re-direct a discussion.
  • Learning how to react through a role-play activity.

1. The teacher provides one or two examples of online conversations that include hate messages. Learners have to detect them. A group discussion allows them to identify in what kind of context such messages occurred, and lists possible answers (reactions). Learners propose alternatives.

2. A strategy is proposed on how to respond to hate messages or online harassment:

  • In the case of online conversations: take your time, don't respond immediately/emotionally.
  • Evaluate the message and start preparing your arguments.
  • Bear in mind that your purpose is to impose the idea that logic and reason prevail. If the other person acrs/sounds irrational, the exchange is useless, you can quit the conversation.
  • Don't state your counter-arguments immediately. Don't try to convince anyone. It is important that the other person has the opportunity to explain, and possibly to develop his views.
  • Try to create a climate of confidence where the other feels free to speak up. People usually have the need to talk about themselves. Be ready to listen, even if you don't accept what is being said. You will be perceived as an open-minded person who is willing to discuss things.
  • Don't hesitate to express politely that you have been hurt/offended by certain words. Compassion and empathy may help to cool down a heated discussion. They also help the perpetrator to learn to listen.
  • Try to ask questions instead of making statements. This will help to identify the other's arguments, detect their weaknesses, and lead them to gradually re-consider thier perspective. By asking questions, you also show that you have a genuine interest in the other person's opinion.
  • Use a humorous tone, even absurdity, but avoid personal mockery: try to find the right balance. Pointing out the absurdity of certain opinions, however, especially by showing images or discussing real-life cases, can lead to self-censorship and doubts.
  • Close the discussion. If the discussion unfolded in a moderate tone, thank the other person for a quality exchange of opinions. If the person continues to dispaly aggression and is against any kind of exchange, just leave the discussion, make a reference to the significance of a democratic debate, and remind about the difficulty of continuing the conversation in an aggressive way. Tell the other that you will be happy to return to the discussion once they have accepted the rules.

3. Organisation of two role-plays corresponding to two different cases: a) Posting of the message "Well done for Charlie Hebdo next time they will pay attention to caricature drawing" [Twitted on 07/01/2015]; b) Commenting "Provided they all drown!" as a response to an article about refugees from a media website.
A group of three learners play the role of the perpetrator; two groups play the role of participants in the discussion; one group wants to counteract the discourse of the perpetrator; one group plays the role of the site administrator (they have to react after a member of the online community asked for an intervention). Depending on the time you have for the activity, groups can switch roles. At the end, the teacher coordinates a classroom discussion analysing each of the cases that were presented.

Human and material resources

A trainer with background knowledge on the topic of hate speech.

Evaluation of the learning process

During a six month period, students learn how to identify and keep track of instances of hate speech found on the internet or encountered in face-to-face conversations. They also keep track of how they have reacted.

Suggestions for follow-up

Activity aimed at counteracting conspiracy theory.

Pedagogical modalities
Use in group
Number of participants
Greta du Velay
Date of creation
Language(s) available


Portuguese, Portugal









Hate speech
Online harassment