“Best Practices” and Counterspeech Are Key to Combating Online Harassment » ADL Blogs
Article posted in: Civil Rights, Extremism & Terrorism
March 7, 2016 Off

“Best Practices” and Counterspeech Are Key to Combating Online Harassment

On March 12, the Anti-Defamation League will play a key role at the first South by South­west (SXSW) Online Harass­ment Sum­mit.  In a series of pan­els at this day-long event, the Sum­mit will focus atten­tion on var­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of hate online, includ­ing every­thing from cyber­bul­ly­ing to the sale of offen­sive mer­chan­dise to hate speech on social media to online extrem­ist recruit­ment and pro­pa­ganda.  The over­ar­ch­ing goal will be to iden­tify the most effec­tive strate­gies to counter all of these forms of cyberhate.

SXSW screenshotADL rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Sum­mit will all focus on the Anti-Defamation League’s rec­om­mended approach to respond to hate online.  That approach, sim­ply stated, is that all of us – those in the indus­try who cre­ate the plat­forms and the tools, and those of us who use them – have a shared respon­si­bil­ity to pre­vent hate online when­ever pos­si­ble and to respond effec­tively when we encounter it.

There are two key com­po­nents to this approach: indus­try best prac­tices and effec­tive coun­ter­speech.  ADL’s experts will empha­size these two com­po­nents on five sep­a­rate pan­els at SXSW:


  • Indus­try Inno­va­tion and Social Respon­si­bil­ity – fea­tur­ing ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt;
  • How Far Should We Go to Pro­tect Hate Speech Online? – fea­tur­ing ADL Senior Vice Pres­i­dent for Pol­icy and Pro­grams Deb­o­rah Lauter;
  • Respond and Pro­tect; Expert Advice Against Online Hate – fea­tur­ing ADL Assis­tant Direc­tor for Cyber­hate Response Jonathan Vick;
  • Pro­fil­ing a Troll: Who They Are and Why They Do It – fea­tur­ing the Direc­tor of ADL’s Cen­ter on Extrem­ism Oren Segal; and
  • Tech and the United Front Against Online Hate – fea­tur­ing ADL Deputy Direc­tor of Pol­icy and Pro­grams Steven Freeman.

ADL will also be pro­mot­ing this mes­sage at other Sum­mit events, includ­ing a Shab­bat din­ner and a recep­tion co-hosted with Hack Harass­ment, a joint ini­tia­tive launched by Intel, re/code, Vox Media and the Born This Way Foundation.

ADL's Cyberhate Working Group

Some mem­bers of ADL’s Cyber­hate Work­ing Group.

To address the industry’s respon­si­bil­ity, ADL has pub­lished a set of Best Prac­tices intended to serve as a guide­post. In a nut­shell, these Best Prac­tices call for plat­forms to ensure that their rel­e­vant guide­lines on hate­ful con­tent are clear, that mech­a­nisms to flag such con­tent are user-friendly, that they will review and respond promptly to flagged con­tent, and that they con­tinue efforts to develop new tech­no­log­i­cal tools that could help them iden­tify a greater per­cent­age of the prob­lem­atic con­tent by themselves.

To address the respon­si­bil­ity of users, work­ing together with the indus­try, ADL has rec­om­mended that var­i­ous coun­ter­speech ini­tia­tives be given the high­est pri­or­ity.  These include, but are not lim­ited to, edu­ca­tional pro­grams, iden­ti­fy­ing and encour­ag­ing promi­nent voices to speak out, and cre­at­ing start-ups and new ven­tures designed to assist vic­tims in reclaim­ing a safe space online.

In advance of the Sum­mit, ADL is pleased that ask.fm, Qui­zlet and Whis­per have agreed to join such major play­ers as Face­book, Google, Microsoft, Twit­ter, Yahoo and YouTube in endors­ing the Best Prac­tices.   We will be ask­ing oth­ers to fol­low their lead, at SXSW and after­wards.  Those who part­ner with us will send a   mes­sage that it is pos­si­ble to con­front cyber­hate effec­tively, pro­tect­ing the free flow of ideas that lies at the core of the Inter­net while at the same time ensur­ing that every­one can freely par­tic­i­pate in this unique forum with­out fear and with­out risk­ing their per­sonal safety or well-being.