The Words Can Hurt– Shake them Off! Is a youth Exchange project which sees the participation of 48 young people between 18 and 30 years old, coming from Italy, Turkey, Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, Sweden and Greece. The general objective of the project is to combat all forms of discrimination and violation of human rights, therefore combating extremism and incitement to hatred online.
The current period is characterized by an excessive and constant use of the internet and digital devices. This condition of unlimited connectivity leads to an improper use of new digital means, which often results in the phenomenon of online hate speech, a term which in a broad sense is a type of offense based on any discrimination (racial, ethnic, religious, gender , etc.) toward a person or a group of people. Its objective is not simply to cause harm to the person, but it wants to destroy the individual and/or social group identities. According to numerous studies, the target using digital media most frequently and confidently can be identified with young people aged 12 to 25, who are very skilled in the use of new technologies. The current generation is the first generation to grow up in a society where the internet is an integral part of daily life. Social networks are the new digital places of aggregation, those where social acceptance is quantified on the basis of likes, where alliances are defined and those who think differently get attacked, where there is division between “haters” and “victims”.
The “haters” can be strangers, or known people who pretend to be others online who, thanks to the perception of invisibility and anonymity, push themselves to demonstrate behaviors that in real life they would probably avoid showing. The victims of these behaviors usually do not report the facts to the police or their parents because, often, they themselves participate in online disputes or are responsible for these behaviors. Given the widespread diffusion of the phenomenon both at a national and European level, Italy has joined the “No Hate Speech movement”, a campaign launched by the Council of Europe to protect human rights online. The objective of this movement is to discourage hate speech that exploits the web, appealing to freedom of expression (art.10 – European Convention on Human Rights) and not recognizing the prohibition of discrimination (art. 14 of the same Convention).
The aim of the project is to offer young participants an opportunity for discussion and reflection that leads to: combating all forms of discrimination and violation of human rights, therefore combating extremism and incitement to hatred online; increase young people’s awareness of their online behavior and its dangers; increase participants’ awareness of the dangers of online hate speech as a threat to fundamental human rights and democracy.
Furthermore, the project aims to build positive relationships between young people from different backgrounds by encouraging them to reflect on their own culture.