NETHATE Workshop – “How to counter online hate speech”

The NETHATE workshop at the University of Antwerp (April 25th-28th, 2023) was a resounding success. Over four days, a diverse group of academic professionals came together to share their disciplinary expertise and support the growth of PhD candidates in the NETHATE research group. The workshop provided a wealth of knowledge and skills that will be invaluable for the students’ future career development. From grant writing strategies to digital research methods for studying hate speech, the workshop was packed with insightful discussions and engaging presentations by students and expert speakers. The roundtable discussion brought together researchers and frontline staff in the field to discuss the issues of online hate and how to counter it, both in theory and in practice. This blog post will provide a detailed report on the event, highlighting the most important takeaways and their impact on the research field. 

On the first day of the workshop, Bruno Hoste, the Research Manager at the Grants Office, University of Antwerp, led a course on grant writing and funding strategies. Hoste provided a comprehensive overview of how to set up a research plan and use databases to find potential partners, topics, and calls. He also introduced the basic principles of project proposal writing, from idea to project submission. Hoste emphasized the importance of writing a compelling proposal that addresses the research question, outlines the research methodology, and justifies the budget. This session gave students valuable insights to secure funding for future research work. 

On the second day of the workshop, Professor Richard Rogers from the University of Amsterdam led a session on digital research methods. Rogers presented his latest research on platforming, de-platforming, and re-platforming, followed by a discussion on five different approaches to studying extreme speech and hate online. These approaches included the compendium approach, definitional work, platform perspectivism, agitation metrics, and measuring angertainment. After the introductory talk, participants worked in groups to formulate presentations either employing digital methods for studying hate, or critically examining the use of digital methods in the context of hate studies. 

The session was followed by a public roundtable on countering online hate speech. The panel of speakers included Prof. Desiree Schmuck (School for Mass Communication Research, KU Leuven), Elizabeth Cappon (Textgain, ‘AI That Reads Between the Lines’, spin-off University of Antwerp), Louisa Klingvall (Fundamental Rights Unit of the EU Commission DG Justice), Dr. Paloma Viejo Otero (ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen), and Romeo Matsas (Director Policy & Social Change at Plan International Belgium). The speakers shared their insights on countering online hate speech, and Prof. Karolien Poels moderated the roundtable discussion. The discussion covered the role of technology in facilitating and preventing online hate, the responsibilities and action possibilities of technology companies and policymakers, the impact of active bystandership and counter-speech, and future challenges, such as sexual abuse in the Metaverse or AI-facilitated bias. 

Lastly, the Annual NETHATE meeting was held on the third and fourth days of the workshop. PhD candidates presented their research updates and received feedback from supervisors and peers. In conclusion, the workshop was an enriching experience for all participants, who gained insights into grant writing and funding strategies, digital research methods, and ways to counter online hate speech. The event brought together academic professionals, policymakers, and lay audiences, demonstrating the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing complex societal challenges. The workshop program showcased the latest research in hate studies and provided a platform for constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas.