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Once the Fellows had learned conflict analysis, they turned their attention to investigating sources of conflict. "Violence" takes many forms, but thanks to social media’s monstrous popularity, verbal violence now seems to enter every corner of our lives, as does the mistrust and harm it drags in its wake.


When comments become hate speech

The Peace Fellowship invited Donna Chu, founder of Mars Media Academy and associate professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, to work with the Fellows. Together, they "translated" hate speech people have spread on social media platforms. Donna explained how changes to media ecology in contemporary society have made it increasingly difficult to strike a balance between freedom of speech and disseminating hate.

From traditional print media to the internet and from social media platforms to discussion boards, “if you know to look, you’ll look at the comments.” Within minutes and with little effort, the Fellows found more than a hundred instances of "offensive language" in various media, in the comment sections of familiar social media platforms and in discussion boards. The offensive comments ranged from race and ethnicity to skin colour, gender/sexual orientation, body shape, physical appearance, language, value orientation, social class, political stance. . . all capable of inciting hate. From stereotypes to discrimination, the sheer variety and degree of vitriol left everyone in awe.


Moving on from the discussion of content, the Fellows examined the characteristics of media and its role as a communication tool or carrier: "In the 100 years before social media, mass media proliferated. Its mode of operation was ‘one to many’, disseminating information to many different people through a central point.” Print media such as newspapers and magazines and electronic media such as television and advertising all fell into this category. "But now, the most common mode of dissemination is ‘many to the many’, with  different people sending and receiving messages at the same time. On discussion boards such as LIHKG and Hong Kong Golden Forum, anyone can create a post and express views, open a thread and discuss any topic."


How do we confront hate speech?

Donna pointed out that "media literacy" can no longer be tackled through talking simply about content quality or information veracity. "Media is an ecological environment. In a rapidly evolving ecology, some behaviours are encouraged or promoted, or existing problems are made more apparent and more serious." When everyone has the "right to speak" and controls tools of communication, what is overturned goes beyond the survival and authority of traditional media. Many comments in social media are extremely subjective. The same "scandal" can befall different people, but because of their different identities and different expectations of them, they suffer different "treatment". Moreover, the critics often believe they are "upholding justice or restoring social order". Additionally, when comments are quoted, they are typically removed from the original thread, leaving them with no context for reference.

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Fellows realised that one person’s idea of offensive language might not be the same as someone else’s, and that negative reactions can vary in degree depending on the individual. Observers may make light of offensive comments or choose not to get involved, but when such comments become personal or the norm, how will they affect individuals and society? Some offensive language does more than simply trigger emotions and even encourages participation in drastic action. Should society regulate such language? The contradiction between "freedom of speech" and "all persons are created equal" has left those who support and those who oppose regulation entrenched on opposite sides of the proverbial fence. To deal with hate speech, should the law be used? Adjust social platform algorithms? Rely on education? Or follow the example of Darren Marron, a key opinion leader who has taken the initiative to talk to his haters?



學習了疏理衝突成因的方法後,Fellows將目光轉向研究帶來衝突的各種原因。而在形形式式的「暴力」當中,社交媒體的大行其道,讓人深刻感受到語言暴力無遠弗屆 ,以至其所帶來的各種不信任及傷害。



Peace Fellowship 邀來「火星媒體」創辦人/中文大學新聞學系副教授朱順慈(Donna Chu),與Fellows一起「翻譯」在不同媒體平台上散播的仇恨性言論背後的意涵,同時解講現代社會中媒體生態的幻變,如何令言論自由和散播仇恨兩者之間的平衡,變得愈來愈困難。



Fellows討論信息内容後,又審視媒體作為傳播工具或載體的特性和角色:「在社交媒體之前,過去一百多年發展得最蓬勃的媒體乃是大眾媒體(mass media),是one to many,信息是通過一個中心點傳播給不同人。」無論是報紙雜誌等紙媒,以至電視或廣告等電子媒介,都屬於此類。「但現在大家最常用的卻是many to many的傳播,訊息由不同人同時發放,同時接收。諸如連登和高登等討論區,更是人人都可以發佈和表達,開展話題及討論。」




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Fellows發現,對於何謂惡言,不同人也有不同理解,反感程度也可因人而異。旁觀者可能一笑置之或置身事外,但當燒到埋身或成為常態,對個人對社會又會帶來怎樣的影響?部分惡言不單刺激情緒,甚至鼓勵人參與激烈行動,社會又應否進行規管?面對「言論自由」和「人生而平等」的矛盾,支持和反對者各執一詞。對待仇恨言論,應該要運用法律?調節社交平台的演算法?還是依靠教育,甚至像Darren Marron這位KOL一樣,主動和憎恨他的haters進行對話?