Hundreds of Canadian digital warriors are on a mission to make social media — particularly comment threads on Facebook — a nicer and more inclusive space.
I Am Here Canada is the Canadian branch of a wider movement that started in Sweden in 2016 called #jagärhär. It describes itself as “a non-partisan action group that practices counter-speaking.”
“We dive into comments online where there’s hateful comments, or bigotry, or intolerance or anything like that, and we do that to carve out space so that people that want to share their opinions, share their voices, have that space to do that where they’re supported,” said Alena Helgeson, the founder of the Canadian branch, which started in 2018.
It’s not censorship, Helgeson explained, but rather a way to balance the views represented in comment threads and offer facts and context in conversations.
“We’re not telling people not to say those things. If you are wanting to spread your hateful comments or your bigotry or whatever, fine, you do that. We’ll present you with the facts, but we’re going to add in a lot more compassion — and we’re going to bring in all these people that want to say all these positive things — that it’s kind of going to mute you but it’s not directly attacking you.
“It’s to create an alternative message. Because there’s so much hate out there, that’s what people see.”
The hope is that people who tend to avoid commenting because they don’t feel comfortable or safe will add their voice to the discussion.
Helgeson cited a Leger Institute for Canadian Citizenship survey that found three-quarters of Canadians don’t feel comfortable engaging online. Those are the people I Am Here Canada are trying to bring back into the conversation. Battling trolls is not really the point.
“When you read it, if you didn’t know better, you’d think the world is a horrible, hateful, terrible place. There are people that get really discouraged by it or depressed. They don’t realize that’s just the minority of voices wanting to silence everyone else. So if we can bring everyone else in and show them that there are such amazing people out there… I think that brings a little hope into it.”
WATCH: (Sept. 27, 2019) Women – especially women in politics – receive a disproportionate amount of abusive and hateful messages on social media. ParityYEG is using artificial intelligence to send out a positive tweet for every negative one.
ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates
Members of the movement are vetted and come from a variety of backgrounds.
“They’re just fellow Canadians, everyday Canadians. You don’t have to be an academic.
“I’m a substitute teacher and I work in a medical office. We have journalists, we have mechanics, we have health-care professionals, comic book creators and then of course we do have academics… scientists,” Helgeson said.
A member is assigned at the start of every day. Other members flag problematic posts — news articles shared on public Facebook pages that are generating a lot of awful comments — and members get to work.
“We’ll usually put in maybe a general comment, maybe we’ll post facts and push back a little bit, and then everybody is invited to boost the post — likes replies, reactions — and that’ll push those positive posts to the top.
“Those are the first ones that that silent majority of Canadians see because those are actually the people we are trying to engage.”
Currently, the I Am Here movement has groups in 15 different regions around the world, including Canada, Australia and the U.K.
“There are certain topics that are universal: things like the refugees, that’s a big one. Climate change is huge. It does not matter what country you are in at all, that 16-year-old girl just triggers off so much hate, it’s incredible,” Helgeson said.
“LGBTQ2S as well, very big. We find there’s a lot of hate and stereotypes with Indigenous issues as well — a tremendous [amount] — but we’re also finding that’s not as much universal.”
WATCH: (March 17, 2019) Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard University, talks about controlling the spread of online hate and violence.
Controlling the spread of online hate and violence
While trying to counteract all the hate online might seem daunting, group members feel it’s crucially important work.
Helgeson describes dangerous speech as “any form of literature or text or pictures that has the ability to increase the violence against a certain group of people or increase the tolerance of that.”
There’s concern that online hatred is manifesting in real life.
“We’ll see a lot of stuff online that maybe we never saw before. We see groups of people being called cockroaches, we see a lot of hate towards political figures, for example.
“Now we have billboards that have hate speech, we have people that refer to other groups in casual conversation as cockroaches or vermin. We have people that don’t seem to have any trouble yelling at certain groups in public.
“If we’re seeing that hate online, we know that somehow it’s going to bleed into real life, and we need to be able to stop it as best we can.
“Sometimes it feels daunting and maybe we won’t ever be able to change it. I like to hope that somewhere down the road, groups like ours won’t need to exist because people will just get engaged into the conversation naturally and defend each other and protect each other.”
To get involved in I Am Here Canada, apply through the group’s Facebook page.
WATCH: (Feb. 15, 2017) The Alberta Hate Crime Committee has launched a website in order to document hate-related incidents across the province by type, time and location.
#StopHateAB website tracks hate-related incidents in Alberta
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Glavas Witnesses Only Learned about War Crimes 'from Media' – Balkan Insight
General Branimir Glavas, taken for questioning by a Bosnian court after police detained him in southern Bosnia in 2009. Photo: EPA/FEHIM DEMIR.
Two former politicians, Luka Bebic and Andrija Hebrang, members of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, told Zagreb County Court on Monday that they only learned from the media that the defendant, Branimir Glavas, had been involved in war crimes against Serbian civilians in the eastern city of Osijek in 1991.
Bebic, a prominent veteran member of the HDZ and former chair of parliament who served as Defence Minister during the independence war, said that during the war he often met Glavas, who linked all the components, “defence and civilian”, but did not know about the killings in Osijek.
Hebrang, a former health minister and coordinator of the armed forces in the 1990s, said that he had been in Osijek at least twice a month at the time and had meetings with Glavas.
“He helped me a lot. Firstly, he was in civilian structures and later in the military, and we had problems in Osijek with the ‘fifth column’ [of Yugoslav intelligence],” Hebrang said.
He said he did not know directly about the killings of civilians and still considered Glavas one of the key defenders of Osijek.
Krunislav Olujic, who was the district attorney at the time, also testified and said he had heard about the killings of civilians, both Croatian and Serbian. According to him, various paramilitary units that were not part of the Croatian army were responsible. He also said that Glavas was not the head of those paramilitary units.
Glavas’s first trial started in October 2007 and encompassed two cases, codenamed “Garage” and “Sellotape”.
The “Garage” case centred on Cedomir Vuckovic, who was forced to drink car battery acid in a garage in Osijek in August 1991. When he fled the garage in pain, Krunoslav Fehir, a member of the 1st Battalion of Osijek Defenders, which Glavas commanded, shot him.
Vuckovic died from the consequences of the poisoning. Glavas allegedly came from his nearby office and then ordered the execution of a second prisoner, Dordje Petkovic.
The “Sellotape” case concerned Glavas’s unit and their arrest of six civilians in November and December 1991 in Osijek who they then tortured them in a basement. They were then brought to the Drava riverbank, where the unit executed them – their hands tied behind their backs with sellotape.
Glavas was first found guilty in 2009 and sentenced to ten years in prison. But on the day his verdict was read out at Zagreb County Court, he fled to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After the Croatian Supreme Court confirmed the verdict but lowered the sentence to eight years, the Bosnian state court sent him to prison in Zenica and then Mostar.
In 2016, the Croatian Supreme Court quashed Glavas’s first-degree verdict, so his trial re-started before Zagreb County Court the following year. In 2018, his retrial was separated from the case against his subordinates.
The Supreme Court then annulled that decision, paving the way for his retrial yet again, now alongside his subordinates. Glavas pleaded not guilty at the opening of his latest retrial in June last year.
Suicide of 'Love Island' host sparks demands for tougher UK media rules – National Post
LONDON — The death of one of Britain’s most famous TV stars, “Love Island” host Caroline Flack, has sparked a debate over the behavior of the tabloid press and whether social media companies need to do more to remove toxic content.
The 40-year-old Flack, the former presenter of the hugely popular reality show “Love Island” and a winner of Britain’s version of “Dancing with the Stars,” was found dead in her London flat on Saturday after she committed suicide.
Friends of the presenter have accused the tabloid press and social media trolls of hounding her after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend in December, a charge she denied.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman called her death a tragedy and said social media companies needed to do more to make sure that robust processes were in place to remove unacceptable content.
“Caroline Flack was relentlessly trolled online, but this trolling was amplified and legitimized by the mainstream press and they should not be allowed to dodge their share of the blame,” said Tracy Brabin, the opposition Labour Party’s culture spokeswoman.
Britain is once again discussing the role of its tabloid press, just weeks after Prince Harry and his wife Meghan moved to Canada, partly to avoid what they said was misleading and unfair reporting.
While tabloids such as Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail play a key role in launching the careers of many reality TV stars, they also tend to track their every move and relationship, and recycle some of the most toxic online criticism to generate new headlines.
A public inquiry was held into Britain’s media in 2011 after Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World newspaper admitted hacking into the voicemails of thousands of public figures to get scoops, sparking a major scandal that shook the press, police and politicians at the time.
Just hours before ITV’s “Love Island” was due to return on Monday after two days off air, hundreds of thousands of people had signed online petitions calling for another inquiry and tougher rules around the way the press can cover celebrities.
One petition called for a ban on the use of anonymous quotes, the invasion of privacy, the publication of private information and medical records.
The daughter of a Coca-Cola sales representative, Flack began as a pizza waitress but became one of the most prominent female leaders of Britain’s boom in reality television.
After a period as an actress in the early 2000s, she became a presenter of shows such as The X Factor and won Strictly Come Dancing in 2014.
On “Love Island” she presented a dating show that brings together young single men and women who have to couple up in a sunshine-soaked villa to win fame. Their intimate relationships, including in the bedroom, are broadcast on television while the public choose who to vote off the show.
Only those who avoid being dumped stand a chance of winning.
Flack had stepped down from presenting “Love Island” after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend in December, a charge she denied. Her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, did not support the prosecution.
Flack herself had talked in the past about her problems with depression, and in December she used Instagram to thank those who had shown their support.
“This kind of scrutiny and speculation is a lot… for one person to take on their own,” she wrote. “I’m a human being at the end of the day and I’m not going to be silenced when I have a story to tell and a life to keep going with.
“I have nothing but love to give and best wishes for everyone.” (Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Hugh Lawson)
Barcelona denies role in social media attacks on players – Times Colonist
BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona on Monday denied accusations it hired a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.
Barcelona released a statement after the Cadena Ser radio network said a company used fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures and even some of its players when they expressed views that went against the club.
Cadena Ser said some of the figures included star players Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona said it “roundly” denies “any relationship, and furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social media accounts that have broadcast negative or disparaging messages related to any person, entity or organisation that may be, or have been, related to the club.”
It said the company in question, I3 Ventures, is “a service provider” to the club but “has no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship were to come to light, the club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests.”
Cadena Ser said the campaign was meant to improve the image of club president Josep Bartomeu and the board of directors, and also targeted other presidential candidates.
Messi recently clashed with the club hierarchy when he criticized sporting director Eric Abidal on social media.
Barcelona said it does pay for services to monitor “social media with the aim of analyzing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself.”
“The club is attempting to look after and preserve its reputation as well those of people related to the club (sponsors, players, board members, members, supporters’ club members…), as far as the protection of this reputation is a fundamental element and responsibility for those who work for the organisation,” the statement said.
Barcelona demanded “an immediate rectification of the information published” and said it reserved “the right to exercise legal action against those who continue to implicate the club in such practices.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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