#BetterTogether Summit Yields U.S.-France Agenda to Fight Extremism, Radicalization Online

Paris, France—Following an historic two-day summit in France that brought together civil society, the tech sector, and French and U.S. government leaders, event cohosts Human Rights First and Coexister have released a set of recommendations developed by summit participants through workshops and consultations to counter hate speech and radicalization on the Internet. The #BetterTogether Summit sought to create a sustainable coalition to combat online extremism through the use of counter-speech campaigns.

“The rise of extremism and radicalization have brought about a massive diffusion of hate speech on the Internet and in social networks,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke and Coexister’s Ilan Scialom. “The Internet is a powerful force where society comes together, or apart—and the racists, extremists, xenophobes, and anti-Semites are harnessing its powers. Faced with the challenge of ensuring that the Internet remains a productive, unifying force, our objective is to give counter-speech actors the tools and good practices needed to defend their vision of a society that is inclusive and proud of its diversity.”

The #BetterTogether Summit, which took place in Paris at the offices of Google and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, included hands-on workshops on the creation of coalitions and the development of counter-narratives by harnessing cutting-edge digital platforms and tools.

Summit participants met with members of the French and U.S. governments, as well as UNESCO, to share concrete recommendations, ideas, and areas for future collaboration, and to learn more about current government initiatives. Government officials included: Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay, French Ambassador for Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Uzra Zeya, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Paris; and Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, French Advisor for Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Recommendations stemming from the summit’s workshops include:

  • Establish a bilateral U.S.-French commission including civil society, governments, and technology companies.  An established mechanism will allow sustained engagement and help civil society groups nimbly respond to subsequent challenges, including terrorist attacks and hate attacks. This body should meet each year and will nurture U.S.-French cooperation and facilitate exchanges between experts from both countries on best practices.
  • Foster strong public policy through a mutually-collaborative relationship between government and civil society. Civil society provides important expertise in countering online hatred. The French government should engage civil society in regular meeting and dialogue. In particular, the French government should share with civil society on policy objectives and outcomes, and welcome input by civil society in their processes for crafting policy responses to online hate.
  • Civil society should build inclusive and representative coalitions to work towards their advocacy objectives. In order to build a strong coalition, civil society should conduct a diagnostic to understand what efforts are underway to counter hatred online. The coalition must be established around a common charter of values, goals, and methodologies. The coalition should partner with technology and media companies to amplify their message and create a virtual platform for the exchange of best practices.
  • Develop content to craft effective counter-narratives. While there is much research on effective messaging in the commercial world, this information is not readily available for civil society to use in countering online hate. Tech and others, like marketing professionals, should work with civil society to craft effective counter-narratives that are more compelling than hatred, including by understanding their audiences and measuring effectiveness.
  • Technology companies should expand the scope of existing projects aimed at increasing digital literacy and preparing civil society to be effective at disseminating positive online content. Technology companies should also inform civil society about existing initiatives and resources for countering hate speech and consult with civil society to create new ones.

“By establishing a proactive framework, increasing digital literacy among civil society groups, and enhancing advocates’ ability to create effective counter-narrative content, we will be better equipped to counter radicalization and extremism online, before the next online or offline attack,” noted Corke and Scialom.


Published on September 14, 2016


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