Winter, C. & Fürst, J.-2017
In recent years, there has been an unprecedented boom in online hate speech and extremism Grave though it is, this global issue has not gone unchallenged. Rather, it has given rise to an international archipelago of organisations, civil society groups, and individuals that proactively engage in counter-speech – i.e., “a common, crowd-sourced response [that] argues, disagrees, or presents an opposing view to extremism or hateful content” – and other more direct measures, which can broadly be termed countering extremism (CE). Sometimes, these activities have private or public sponsors; often, though, they are entirely spontaneous and voluntary, manifestations of a popular desire to make the world a better place. While CE in general and counter-speech in particular have been scrutinised by journalists and academics alike recently, there remains a significant gap in the research regarding practical matters. From an organisational perspective, many questions remain unanswered: How do activists conceive of and develop their programmes? From what sources do they derive funding? How are campaigns shaped and calibrated to meet the needs of particular audiences?
In this review, we attempt to offer answers to some of these questions. Our approach is three-pronged: first of all, we propose a simple comparative framework with which researchers and activists can work in order to better discern organisational strengths and weaknesses. Next, we apply this framework to counter-speech and CE efforts in three European countries – the United Kingdom, Germany, and France – examining case studies from each national context. From this, we then derive a series of recommendations that can be used to help practitioners and activists develop their projects, evaluate successes and failures, and foster sustainable programming.