Hatebase crowdsources occurrences of hate speech throughout the world and catalogues them online in an effort to assist peacemakers, politicians and NGOs stem outbreaks of genocide.
The platform, launched in 2013 and run by The Sentinel Project, is multilingual and allows users to log on and post exampes of hate speech that they have bore witness to. Users can also add location-specific terms, with the system plotting each of these on a digital map. You can also track hate speech by type (against ethnicity, gender, class etc), language and region. The data is then used as a monitoring device to keep an eye on any developing patterns and compare them against other indicators (such as localised attacks on targets of the hate speech) as a means of predicting large instances of violence.
The on-the-ground reports help the team track new trends and, importantly, new terms that peacebuilders may not yet be aware of with the entire system providing an easy, visual means of managing and interpreting large volumes of data.
It has long been thought – and argued – that hate speech correlates with genocide and can lead to outbreaks of mass violence.
In an address to Columbia University School of Law in 2009, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler discussed how the international criminal tribunals (ICT) held following massacres in Rwanda in the former Yugoslavia reported on and condemned hate speech’s relationship to violence, stating that, ”these tribunals have echoed the words of the Supreme Court of Canada in recognising that genocide begins with words: the founding statutes of the ICTR [Rwanda] and ICTY [Yugoslavia] make direct and public incitement to genocide punishable as an offence in its own right.”
Punishing hate speech however, is often caught up in a delicate tug-of-war between upholding freedom of expression and protecting the rights and safety of those that are the targets of hate speech (examples of how murky this water can be to wade in can be found here).
Cotler himself concedes that these tribunals are generally set up to deliver justice once atrocities have been carried out with almost no scope to tackle the threats and hate speech that precede violence. This is one reason why early detection of hate speech and intervention before it leads to violence, which is the primary driving force behind Hatebase, is crucial.
Head over to the Hatebase website to learn more.