Social advertising company in Internet against extremism and xenophobia
Since 2001 "Ethnic Studies" program of the European University at St.Petersburg, with support of the Federal special purpose program :Formation of a consciousness of toleration and precautions against extremism in Russian society; and in collaboration with the Yandex firm, conducts research activity of extremist sites in the Russian-language segment of the Internet. We have investigated over a hundred permanent sites in order to explicate the discourse of their texts: major problems used for extremists' speculations, ways of solution of such problems, types of argumentation etc.
The main conclusion of this research, published in the brochure :Hate Speech in the Russian-language Internet; is that it is difficult to differentiate the language of hatred, used by extremists, from the language used by official politicians and mass media. Consequently, a question emerged: how to counteract the dissemination of hate speech in the situation where the borderline between the admissible and inadmissible language is virtually absent?
At present there are several ways to counteract dissemination of undesired information, including extremism and xenophobia, in the Internet. These are: 1) :power; method (the state closes the sites and punishes its authors), 2) method of :access limitation; (various filters are placed on servers or computers), and 3) :social advertising method;.
Within the frames of our project :Social advertising company in Internet against extremism and xenophobia; we attempt to work out an effective model of :social advertisement; as a method of struggle with hate speech in the Russian Internet. The aim of the project is to put into practice the following from of social advertising: users of the Russian search system Yandex who through key-work search receive references to extremist sites propagating hatred and calling for violence, are offered alternative references and warning references.
At the same time, we suggest working out the system of warning about the legal consequences of actions offered by radical sites; this system will involve references to the corresponding articles of the Russian Federation Criminal Code and commentaries to it.
The project will concentrate on texts offered for young people (up to 30 years old), because, on the one hand, these are the most active Internet users, and on the other hand, they are more subjected to propaganda, more actively look for answers to acute societal questions.
To successfully solve this task, the project authors will systematize requests that are coming to search systems such as Yandex and that may connect users to the sites of radical groups. These requests will be systematized on the basis of the already composed thematic list. Further on, a list of sites containing adequate tolerant information for the corresponding requests will be composed.
Analysis of requests that connect users to the sites of radical groups will also show which social problems require wide societal discussions.
At the same time, project participants will continue analytical work of rhetoric and argumentation used by the authors of radical sites for propaganda and promotion of their views in the Internet. This work will allow to make counter-arguments for propaganda of tolerance in the Internet more clear and correct.
Thus we offer the model of the Internet as a Hyde Park, where, in order to counteract extremist ideas, we use only the power of argumentation and humanistic persuasion rather than power methods, which, in our opinion, may only be used as a tool of suppression of the power of speech.
SOVA Center (Alexander Verkhovsky)
European University at St Petersburg (Dmitry Dubrovsky)