We’ve all seen it. First, there’s a Facebook post about someone doing something good. Then the trolls arrive. It doesn’t matter how innocuous, or inoffensive, or positive the post is. Once the trolls get a hold of it, they descend on it like a ravenous, feral pack. But there’s (at least) one group of people trying to counteract all the gratuitous negativity.
Not only is the group focusing on reducing negativity and counteracting hate speech in social media, they’re also pushing back against the spread of misinformation.
“Of course, social media does not reflect the overall population, but when you read the comment field, you often get the sense that 80% of the population thinks that homosexuality is a disease, for example. We want the comment section to look more like society and the way to do this is enable people to speak and participate.”– Mina Dennert, Founder of #Jagärhär
#Jagärhär’s founder, Mina Dennert, is a Swedish journalist who started the group after she started noticing the volume of violently hateful posts which would appear on social media on any article with an even slightly liberal bent. I had no idea this happened even in Sweden! The concept for the group was simple but effective. When one of the group would notice trolls descending on a post, they would hone in on the cyberbullies, engaging them with kindness and honest questions. Then they would make positive comments on the post to outweigh the negativity the trolls expressed.
At first, she and her group received awards, but of course, no good deeds go unpunished. Those kudos were quickly followed by online harassment, death threats, and even bullets in the mail. Dennert and her husband were also doxed, with the trolls publishing sensitive personal data about the couple. But Dennert hasn’t allowed that to slow her down.
“I’m still positive. We must never give up fighting for democracy and human rights. But we need to continue to make demands on politicians to prioritize this work for change. Make demands on the police and prosecutors so that they indict people who make these illegal acts. It’s important that we distinguish between hatred and opinion. Unlawful threats, slander, hate speech against people is all illegal.”
You can learn more about #Jagärhär and their fight against hate speech on Facebook.