WACC Europe project to address social media hate speech against refugees

Donated shoes await refugees at the border crossing into Austria near the Hungarian town Hegyeshalom. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT

The World Association for Christian Communication – Europe Region (WACC Europe) is embarking on a one-year project to identify and promote strategies to counter online hate speech focused on refugees and migrants.

“Communication Rights and Refugees in Europe: Breaking Down the Social Media Divides” will explore existing attempts to address hate speech and cultural and political divisions online, particularly in relation to migrants and migration, and assess the approaches and tools that are cost effective.

The focus on social media comes out of previous media monitoring conducted in seven European countries by WACC Europe and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe. The results of this project – “Refugees Reporting” – revealed general patters of invisibility and misrepresentation and highlighted the need for direct inclusion of the voices and opinions of refugees and migrants in stories about them.

Stephen Brown, President of WACC Europe, said, “Our ‘Refugees Reporting’ research focused on news media but also highlighted that much of the extreme discourse and disinformation around migration occurs in largely uncontrolled social media platforms. Through the new project, we hope to identify good practices and effective tools and strategies for individuals and organizations to promote ethical journalism and inclusive approaches.”

The one-year project runs from December 2018 through November 2019. The project steering committee includes Brown as WACC Europe president; Ralf Peter Reimann (WACC Europe Secretary, Evangelical Church in Rhineland), Torsten Moritz, (General Secretary, Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe), Agnieszka Godfrejów-Tarnogórska (Communication Officer, Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland; Timo Versemann (Project Manager, Protestant Academy of Berlin); and Sara Speicher (WACC Global regional liaison for Europe)

The project is supported by the Otto per Mille Foundation of the Waldensian Church of Italy.