PROXI - Project Against Xenophobia and Intolerance on the Internet
Strategy type (tool, event, training course, etc.)
Cyberactivism & Monitoring
Scope of the practice (local, national, international level)
When did it start/end?
City and country
1. Describe your project briefly
Readers’ comments in online newspapers are full with prejudice, stereotypes and hate speech in general. This is so, in particular, in comments related to news on migration or Roma. At the same time, the presence of an alternative, tolerant discourse is worryingly low. PROXI aimed at countering such intolerant speech and at increasing the presence of a positive discourse in newspapers’ online fora. To do so, PROXI carried out two main tasks. First, it gathered, classified and analysed comments made by readers that appeared in news related to migrants or to Roma, published in some of the largest Spanish online newspapers. The project compiled and analysed almost 5.000 comments, 11% of which were found to be hate speech, 49% as comments that contributed to hate speech (such as stereotypes, prejudices and rumours) and only 11% was found to be tolerant speech. Secondly, PROXI carried out direct interventions (in the form of comments posted by PROXI) in those same media, to counteract hate speech arguments and to convey an alternative discourse. PROXI made comments disassembling stereotypes, prejudices, and other arguments used against migrants and Roma, and conveying an alternative and tolerant discourse. PROXI posted more than 500 comments in over 400 news items.
2. What is the aim of the project?
Project PROXI aims to contribute to preventing the appearance, development and spread of xenophobic and intolerant attitudes among the population in Spain. It identifies, analyses and disassembles arguments that feed online hate speech against migrants and Roma. The goal of PROXI is to increase the level of comments that may be defined as tolerant discourse towards migrants and Roma people, so that other readers do not find an overwhelming majority of hate comments. The assumption is that by making such alternative discourse available and more visible, negative comments will have a minor impact on readers.
3. Who was involved in designing process?
The project was conceived and implemented by two organizations, the Institute of Human Right of Catalonia, and United Explanations, as well as a group of activists.
4. If you could change something, what would you change?
We would strengthen the part of the direct interventions carried out by PROXI. It would be great to have more time to involve a larger group of activists to carry out interventions, in order to generate a multiplier effect to change the climate of opinion in forums.
5. How do the project impact on civil society?
The society in general benefitted from PROXI's action and the migrant and Roma communities, as PROXI contributes to disassembling stereotypes, rumours, and prejudices against them. Likewise, the contribution towards a more “civil” tone in the online debate can be said to be an impact on society at large. Generally, it is important to highlight that PROXI’s target were not the intolerant users, but their potential audience, the ambivalent readers, which are essentially passive participants in the forums. By making interventions directly on the online fora, the project contributed in offering alternative views to such readers. In addition, PROXI equipped a group of activists with tools and expertise to tackle hate speech online.
6. How do you evaluate the project’s impact?
Generally, it is difficult to measure the impact of the project as the amount of hate speech on online newspapers depends on multiple factors (the media agenda, the articles’ language, the socio-political context, etc.). However, a clear impact of PROXI’s direct interventions could be seen in certain situations. PROXI’s interventions facilitated the start of a multilateral dialogue in the online forum, moderating the tone of the debate. Posting comments with an alternative discourse encouraged others to join the discussion; and when PROXI could intervene at the beginning of the discussions with positive comments, the following comments tended to follow this trend. Other indicators of PROXI’s impact were the high number of visits to the website (e.g. the posts that published the classification and analysis of comments on the project's website had almost 10,000 visits throughout the year). Furthermore, the teaching of a virtual course on "Human Rights and hate speech", with the aim of training activists interested in fighting intolerance online, received 534 applications (for 30 final participants).
7. Is there anything else would you like to share with us?
In addition to the monitoring and the interventions, PROXI aimed at building a network of activists to fight hate speech on newspapers websites. To that end, activists were trained to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and tools to combat this type of speech and build an alternative discourse based on human rights. Furthermore, the project published a number of articles and infographics on topics related to migrants and Roma. Project PROXI received funding from the EEA Grants.