Dangerous Speech and New Methods of Prevention
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Dangerous Speech and New Methods of Prevention Prof. Susan Benesch 16 th National Metropolis Conference March 15, 20134. What is Dangerous Speech?. “Hate speech”

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Dangerous Speech and New Methods of PreventionProf. Susan Benesch16th National Metropolis ConferenceMarch 15, 20134

What is dangerous speech
What is Dangerous Speech?

  • “Hate speech”

    • Large, inchoate, variously defined category. Usually offensive to members of groups it purports to describe, but may not increase the chances of violence being committed against them.

  • Dangerous speech

    • communication that may help catalyze violence by moving an audience to condone - or even take part in – such violence.

Five defining criteria for dangerous speech
Five Defining Criteria for Dangerous Speech

  • Powerful speaker with influence over the audience most likely to react

  • Audience vulnerable to incitement e.g. fearful

  • Meaning of the speech act: understood as call to violence

  • Conducive social and historical context

  • Influential means of dissemination

The audience
The Audience

  • Does the audience have the means or capacity to commit violence against the targeted group?

  • Is the audience experiencing economic insecurity, demonstrating excessive respect for authority, or fearful?

Meaning of the speech act
Meaning of the Speech Act

  • Was the speech understood by the audience as a call to violence ?

  • Did the speech exhibit hallmarks of dangerous speech?

    • Did it dehumanize its targets e.g. comparing them to vermin or insects?

    • Did the speaker use ‘accusation in a mirror’ or assert that the target group posed or poses a threat to the audience?

Means of dissemination
Means of Dissemination

  • Was the speech delivered through a particularly influential source such as music, social media, or a media outlet with no competitors?

  • Does the audience have access to alternate sources of information?

  • Was the speech frequently repeated?

New experiments to counter dangerous speech
New Experiments to Counter Dangerous Speech

  • NipeUkweli, “gimme truth” – an outreach campaign to encourage citizens to resist and speak out against dangerous speech online and in person

  • ViojaMahakamani– episodes of a popular Kenyan courtroom-based TV drama were infused with messages about dangerous speech.

The umati project monitoring dangerous speech
The Umati Project: Monitoring Dangerous Speech

  • Test a methodology to track and classify levels of inflammatory speech online.

  • Develop a process for speech monitoring in electoral contexts that can be replicated elsewhere.

  • Launch an online peacekeeping effort that encourages individuals to report and counter malicious speech.

  • Further civic education on dangerous speech in Kenya.

Notable findings overall increase in hateful and dangerous speech
Notable Findings:Overall increase in hateful and dangerous speech

Notable findings identifiable commenters most actively dangerous
Notable Findings:Identifiable commenters most actively dangerous

Notable findings minimal dangerous speech on twitter
Notable Findings:Minimal dangerous speech on Twitter

Kenyans on twitter kenyadecides
Kenyans on Twitter #KenyaDecides

  • Kenyans on Twitter (KOTs) frequently called out other users for hateful speech

  • In some cases, tweets were deleted and/or apologies were issued by original posters


  • Blogger and activist tweeted links to his post asking Muslims to stop using Arabic word ‘abeed’ (slave) to refer to Black people

  • Some backlash, some self justification. Some said ‘never thought about that’ and vowed to stop using the word. Some offered to campaign against it.


Jeffrey lin league of legends
Jeffrey Lin/League of Legends

  • Experiments to decrease “toxic” speech among gamers

  • Half of toxic messages do not come from ‘trolls’

  • Peer feedback and community-driven sanctions cause changes in player behavior - most sanctioned players are never reported again

  • Short messages during loading sequences, encouraging civil behavior, can reduce negative attitudes & behaviors

    • Small changes affect behavior greatly, e.g. font colors have dramatic impact on message effectiveness


Inoculating against incitement
‘Inoculating’ against incitement


Kenyan television programs to

teach resistance to incitement

Any questions?

Email [email protected]

or visit voicesthatpoison.org