…and with a lot of lessons learnt! Which is to be expected when one takes up on the challenge of designing and implementing a social media campaign in a region with 24 different official languages that focuses on such a hot topic as online hate speech – right before election time in the European Union.
So did this campaign manage to succeed against (almost) all the odds and if yes, how?
Stemming from a Twitter workshop in Dublin co-organized by the European Commission, the first joint European NGO campaign on hate speech initiated in January 2019 and ended in May 2019, giving the coordination team and social media representatives a good 4 months to mobilize and get NGOs from across the EU on board.
Building on what exists already
The campaign gathered almost 40 NGOs from the EU to enhance digital empathy around the values of tolerance and respect, and to raise awareness on the often normalized usage of hate speech before and during the European elections. Led by a coordination team based in Brussels, London and Amsterdam, it built upon existing networks and initiatives that combat hate speech online to give more spotlight to respectful online and offline exchanges. Attracting a high number of organizations representing all major regions within the EU was a key priority in order to have a wide geographical reach and given the 24 official languages of the EU, translations provided by participating NGOs were essential for a local reach.
The campaign on hate speech generated more than a 1,5 million impressions on Twitter and resulted in more than 4000 new followers for participating organizations. With ads grant provided by Twitter and by incorporating the hashtags of campaigns with a similar message, #WeDeserveBetter spread beyond the usual NGO audiences and brought together people from all across the political spectrum for the same message.
What was one of the most challenging times for social media companies was a very similar experience for NGOs in Europe – yet it also meant a more open audience for messages about politics and choices across the EU. Taking place on all major social media platforms starting four weeks before the campaign, the campaign’s main message was intensely amplified in different countries during the last week before elections were taking place all over Europe.
Getting the message right
The simple yet engaging message articulated that we all deserve better than hate speech from our politicians and from each other, during and beyond elections times. Through the use of easily translatable illustrations (remember, 24 languages!) that contrasted a hateful conversation with a meaningful and respectful exchange, the campaign inspired social media users to reflect upon their choice of words and their choice of politicians. Aiming at the better nature of online citizens, slogans as “We can have different opinions and still talk to each other in a respectful way” and “Make the hate free choice” helped to bring people together for the same message.
While this might not be the absolute recipe for successful online campaigning, all these steps helped European NGOs in amplifying their messages when it was really needed, contributing to the diversity of voices in election times and hopefully also contributing to less hateful online and offline rhetorics.
Because we do deserve better than that.
Written by Julia Mozer, Communication Officer and Hate Speech Advisor at CEJI-A Jewish contribution to an inclusive Europe and the Facing Facts project series