• Tallinn and Zoom
Concept note: Herd immunity against hate and lies

Concept note: Herd immunity against hate and lies

Why this conference?

COVID-19 does not care where we live, what we believe in, or who we love. The virus attacks presidents, farmers, and your favorite baker just as well. It seems rational then to wish for solidarity to tackle both the virus and its consequences. However, the pandemic seems to have unleashed a tsunami of hate, lies, xenophobia, and scapegoating. The solution? We need more cooperation between different sectors and actors in order to develop herd immunity against the virus of hate.

Against a background of excessive anxiety caused by the ongoing pandemic, there has been an increase in people’s instinctive quest for scapegoats, too often from vulnerable groups. Many societies have also witnessed the spread of other viral phenomena like misinformation, conspiracy theories, and general mass suspicions about what is really going on in society. Hatred and misinformation are nothing new, but what has changed more recently is the influence and magnitude of social media platforms in this process.

Yes, the times are challenging, but our priorities should stay the same – respect for human rights, accountability, fact-based and inclusive debate. It might be too early for herd immunity against COVID-19 but herd immunity against hate and lies does not need booster doses. It needs will, cooperation and efforts from all relevant stakeholders. We invite you to take part in our upcoming conference and give your personal contribution to the topic.

The conference will address the issue of online hate speech but also the misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories topics insofar as these relate to the phenomenon of online hate during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will discuss with representatives of social media platforms about their efforts to combat these phenomena and try to learn the extent to which change in policies and practices would require a strong voice coming from its user base and/or regulatory pressure. Furthermore, the conference will provide space for reflections on the challenges, good practices, and recommendations coming out of the work of civil society organisations and human rights institutions.

The Open Code for Hate-Free Communication (Op:Code) project

In addition, the conference is a final event for the Op:Code project that aims at countering online hate speech using a multidimensional approach consisting of monitoring, analysis, taking action, developing free and open software solutions for moderating user-generated content. We invite you to join us for a presentation and discussion of the project OpCode outcomes, lessons, and how we all can contribute to hate-free communication across Europe.