#Stophate project aims to clamp down on Malta's online hate speech
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#Stophate project aims to clamp down on Malta's online hate speech

SOS Malta, Times of Malta in drive to control proliferation of hate discourse

A campaign was launched on Saturday aimed at tackling the proliferation of hate speech and bringing together a basic understanding of the dangerous discourse that has swamped social media.

The one-year #stophate project is aimed at cultivating a culture that raises awareness of hate speech and its difference from freedom of speech. Funded by the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme, it is being steered by SOS Malta in conjunction with Times of Malta. 

It will also attempt to bring together a conscience towards understanding how journalism is impacted by hate speech and trolling.

Hate speech in Malta is a major issue. Research shows that hate speech is widespread and that under-reporting is a contributing factor to its proliferation.

It is also clear that hate speech laws are often misinterpreted and underused.

Moreover, recent events serve to highlight the need for healthy debate and dialogue in a functioning democratic society.

The campaign will seek to train members of the public to differentiate between hate speech and opinionated debate on online forums, related to journalistic pieces published.The misconception that we are allowed to say what we want with no repercussions because it is online has allowed certain level of anger and audacity

The project brings forward an element of research to probe the way the law has been interpreted across several cases and will also train a number of volunteers to assist in the moderation of Times of Malta's online comment boards and social media. 

The project includes research into the phenomena of online hate speech and a rigorous legal analysis. These will feed into the development of a comprehensive training course for volunteers from civil society and also assist law enforcement professionals to help them identify hate speech and hate crime. 

"The impact of having very easy access for the readers to a medium that allows a two-way communication with journalism has manifested itself in abuse in terms of hate crime," SOS Malta said.

"The misconception that we are allowed to say what we want with no repercussions because it is online has allowed certain level of anger and audacity."

Times of Malta's online editor Herman Grech added: "The very nature of journalism advocates for freedom of speech. But with that comes responsibilities and media outlets have a duty to stop fanning the hate rhetoric. The rapid deterioration of public discourse and hatred levelled out at different sectors of society makes it an urgent matter to address."



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