An illustration of a group of people holding white and yellow signs in Italian about fighting hate speech online

“Silence Hate”: students in Italy use art to create a campaign against online hatred

In recent years, hate speech, especially online, has become a widespread and worrying phenomenon even among the youngest, who are increasingly exposed to the risks and dangers of the network.

Art has helped fight hatred in various forms and in different historical eras, and I hope it will continue to do so.

Chiara Fazi, visual artist.

According to the report EU Kids Online 2020, the percentage of young people who, in Italy, have had an uncomfortable online experience between 2013 and 2017 has more than doubled (from 6% to 13%). The greatest risk is represented by dangerous content generated by other users (User Generated Contents), with over 51% of young people between 11 and 17 years of age reporting that they have been exposed, at least once in the last year, to dangerous content generated by other users, including 31% of online hate messages.

This is why Amnesty International Italia has decided to join the European project co-funded by the European Union “Silence Hate”, to prevent and contrast hate speech and promote proper media education among young people.

The general goal of the project is to prevent and combat online hate speech against minorities and vulnerable groups and individuals by developing new and creative counter-narratives, such as those developed by the students who participated human rights education training workshops in collaboration with Amnesty International Italy.

“Since the beginning of activities in schools we have been able to involve in our human rights workshops on the topics of media education and online hatred over 700 students from 10 different high schools in Italy”, says Claudio Nicosia, AI Italy HRE trainer, involved in workshops and training in the Silence Hate project.

At the end of the educational workshops delivered by Amnesty International Italy, students have been involved in the creation of materials for an awareness raising campaign against online hatred and the promotion of a responsible use of social medias among young people, under the expert guidance of a visual artist.

“What I liked most about working with these groups on the Silence Hate project was their active participation and interest in finding the right message to convey, the responsibility they felt for what they were going to create within their school, but also the pleasure of discovering the different stages of creating a message in the form of a “work of art” and, above all, their amazement in being able to realize it,” says Chiara Fazi.

Students have been inspired by artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey or Christopher Neimann, and, after thinking about the message they wanted to launch against hate, they started working on the rights image to use to send the message. Some students decided to take pictures of themselves and then stylized the photograph, other decided to create their own graphic, always trying to use a limited number of colours in order to give a unity to the campaign.

“It’s been incredible to see how young students which we had involved in human righst education workshops on online hatred, engaged with such enthusiasm and consciousness about what they were doing”, says Claudio.

By the end of the project over 20 posters and graphic materials have been selected and printed and distributed around the Human Rights Friendly Schools network in Italy and used as communicatioin materials online.

“The collaboration between our school and Amnesty has produced excellent results on the topic of contrasting online hate speech, launching a beautiful awareness campaign created by the students themselves” says Liana Mazzotta, teacher involved in workshops with young students.

According to Chiara “art, in its multitude of forms, is able to reach everyone unconditionally. Each craftsman can take responsibility for exposing himself without dictating, but knowingly speaking and showing through words, music, images, his experience linked to others and to the culture of the world and freely share it. Art is the language that can unite everyone beyond politics, borders, oppression and injustice”.