Google runs workshops to tackle hate speech


As response to numerous criticisms and complaints, Google has last week set up online workshops with a series of programme to counter online hate speech and fake news.

The workshops, called Internet Citizens, is set to be launched by YouTube, the Google-owned video streaming service, for people aged 13 to 18 in cities across the UK as part of its Creators for Change programme. These workshops are also designed to raise awareness on topical issues that directly affect teenagers in the UK such as intolerance, cruelty and online bullying. In addition, it was disclosed that programme would be used to teach skills on how to participate safely and responsibly online, and would include input from the youth mentor Efe Ezekiel.

The UK government pulled advertising from Google and YouTube last month after adverts funded by the taxpayer were placed alongside extremist content on the video site. A group of MPs from the home affairs select committee wrote to the company, accusing it of “profiting from hatred” just days after accusing Google, Twitter and Facebook of “commercial prostitution” because of a failure to tackle hate speech on their platforms.

The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, said that despite reassurances during a committee hearing that the companies did not allow hate speech or terrorist content to be monetised, media reports had revealed that was not the case.

“Nearly all of us will have come across comments or content online that shocked or even offended us, sometimes leaving us feeling isolated or powerless to change the conversation. And for young people in particular, this sense of vulnerability can be heightened if it’s difficult to judge whether a piece of content is real, especially when something is shared on social media by a trusted friend. That’s why we’re launching Internet Citizens,” added Naomi Gummer, the site’s head of public policy. 

She further said that the company is exploring more innovative ways to use technology; to partner with experts to help in tackling hate speech online. More update is therefore promised to be shared on these areas before the end of this month.

To properly deal with abuse online, experts from three UK based renown establishments were tasked to design and develop the curriculum viz-a-viz the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the charity UK Youth and the youth marketing firm Livity.

“Young people in the UK spend more time online than ever before. In this complex world, there is an urgent need to help young people embrace the positive aspects of connectivity, but we must also support them to manage the negative effects.Through Internet Citizens, UK Youth is empowering young people to express themselves, have a voice, listen to others and ultimately gain a sense of belonging by discovering the skills needed to act safely and responsibly online, and make the internet a positive place,” said Anna Smee, UK Youth’s chief executive.

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