How Spain is Producing Data to Stop Hate Speech in its Tracks

An elusive subject like “hate speech” with a definitive object like “data” are rarely paired together – at least not effectively.

 

Why? Because social issues – like hate speech – don’t exactly translate into hard numbers.

 

On social media, derogatory speech geared towards a group of people can be very explicit; or it can be very subtle and buried in innuendo. If aimed at a broad group of people, there’s no one person to report it in order to quantify it. Also, the root of the issue or malice often depends on the context, again, making it very hard to identify and measure.

 

But without the actual numbers – the data – it’s extremely difficult for institutions to develop and propose programs that will be supported by governing bodies to become law.

 

And intervention is the only way to challenge and counter online hate speech before it turns into destructive – or even life-threatening – action in the real world.

 

How is Spain challenging hate speech?

 

The government of Navarra, a region of Spain populated by 650,000 people, is taking matters into their own hands; they’re leading the charge by quantifying hate speech among its population. In collaboration with local grass-root organizations, Navarra has been promoting peaceful intercultural co-existence and racial tolerance through education and prevention of prejudiced sentiments. And now, they’re getting the data to guide them in the right direction.

 

“We can push through better hate-speech policy if we have better data the challenge is getting it.”

 

José María González Odériz

Director of Service,

Co-existence and Human Rights,

Government of Navarra

 

How is Citibeats helping Spain do this?

 

Through machine learning and AI text analytics, Citibeats is able to cut through social media clutter and extract relevant information locally.

 

It does this in two ways:

 

First, it separates hate speech – messages focused on racism, discrimination and xenophobia –  from other speech on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Next, Citibeats technology analyzes the typology, origin and frequency of these messages. It then sorts the information into the different hate speech categories pre-defined jointly with the Navarran government. It also compares the type of hate speech in different regions of Navarra to help policymakers localize their efforts in the most effective way possible. A system of automated email alerts flags the department when activity peaks and requires attention.

 

In essence, Citibeats is the Navarra’s hate speech cyber-watchdog.

 

What’s the goal?

 

With all of this social listening data that Citibeats provides, the government of Navarra plans to use these insights to shape their reports against hate speech – and to guide the local efforts, educational programs and awareness days that best address the real issues that the local populations are facing in real time.

 

Only by knowing which hate speech topics are being talked about, how they’re being discussed, where they’re coming from and how they’re quickly spreading, can policymakers have any hope of making a real impact with timely action.

 

What’s next?

 

While the internet has its upsides – like democratizing information and connecting the world – it has its dark sides too.

 

Hate speech is a real – and serious – issue.

 

As immigration tensions continue to rise, dangerous dialogue is increasing online and creating divisions within countries and communities. Cyberbullying awareness increases globally year after year, and it affects not only minority groups, but our teens and children. Over 80% of children own a mobile phone and have multiple social network accounts and 57% of them admit they have seen or experienced online harassment.

 

The problem is that the “dark side” doesn’t have a face. With the viral aspect of social media, – and the creators’ ability to hide behind a mask of anonymity – hate speech is that much more difficult to stay on top of and to prevent.

 

Citibeats’ goal is to provide social organizations the tool they need to track online hate speech and give them the ability to turn around counter-narratives in a timely and relevant manner. This is an area that NLP (Natural Language Processing) technology can be refined and made useful – not just for one country – but for the world.

 

The vision is that instead of using the internet and social media as vehicles for spreading hate and divide between citizens, it can be used as a weapon for social organizations, education centers, government – and society at large – to suit up and fight for respectful co-existence and peace.