PECAO Check-in meeting

PECAO Check-in meeting to evaluate project progress and plan ahead!

Almost one year has passed since ERGO Network and its partners have started the implementation of the PECAO project that addresses antigypsyist online hate speech. It has been quite a journey for our project partners within PECAO, as the project itself is being implemented during a global pandemic.

Nevertheless, our partners are extremely dedicated to encouraging positive values within Roma and non-Roma communities, as well as addressing the persisting issue of hate speech and antigypsyism. They have proven themselves motivated and reliable with the responsibilities handed to them. Our network is truly supported by grassroots efforts and we are immensely proud of this.

On 25 and 26 February 2021, the PECAO partners came together to evaluate a year of building our experience and expertise in tackling hate speech online, but also to look into the on-going implementation of the project, to check progress and plan the next steps ahead. We focused on the road so far, looking into what has been smooth and well done; where we were encountering bumps and the moments that we felt lost and were challenged by the given circumstances.

The check-in meeting was important and integral, as we still have a year ahead of us to make a change through our work and project in the online space.

The partners highlighted that the monitoring and peer education are going well, but it was challenging in the beginning to find the correct way to do it, especially face to face meetings, hence most of the activities shifted to be organized online and needed to take everyone’s safety into account.

During the meeting, we also received insights into the work packages led by our partners Integro, Nevo Parudimos and FAGiC. We listened to their reflections on the implementation so far and received heads up for the next period, as we are looking into following up on the conclusions of the stakeholder roundtables organized in their countries as well as continue to work on the monitoring exercise of collecting and reporting antigypsyist online hate speech.

On the meeting, our project officer from DG JUST Helene Lesay was also present and praised the commitment of our team despite the challenges faced.

The meeting concluded with looking into the next steps and milestones, one of them being the EU stakeholder roundtable organized for the 26 April 2021 by ERGO Network called “Online Antigypsyism: A new challenge for Roma inclusion?” where relevant stakeholders such as the European Commission, Google.org, European civil society organisations and other Brussels-level stakeholders, as well as EU policy-makers from across the institutional spectrum are invited to discuss.

Is the internet available and safe for Roma?

Is the internet available and safe for Roma?

Throughout the last years, Safer Internet Day on 9 February has become an important event, addressing the issues of online safety and digital dignity. From cyberbullying to social networking to digital identity, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns. This year, ERGO Network is highlighting the issues of online safety and digital dignity for Roma.

Online safety for Roma

From an era in which individuals communicated their ideas mostly orally and only to small numbers of other people, we have moved on to an era in which people can make free use of a variety of channels for instant communication to a large audience. More and more people make use of online platforms not only to interact with each other, but also to share news. The detachment created by being enabled to write, without any obligation to reveal oneself directly, means that this new medium of virtual communication allows people to feel greater freedom in the way they express themselves1. Unfortunately, though, there is also a dark side to this system. Social media has become a fertile ground for antigypsyism, which frequently results in the use of insulting and offensive language towards Roma.

Antigypsyist hate speech has always been present in our societies. With the use of social media, however, the phenomenon has achieved a status of normalized online behavior, where Roma are targeted and become victims of cyberhate, which further develops into practices of hate crimes. Hate speech should not be perceived from the prism of an online insult; hate speech is connected to hate crimes, as it directly influences affecting citizens outside of the internet space. It results into violation of the rights of Roma as citizens, causing direct discrimination and threats, and in some cases result in offline violence or hate crimes.

As an example we can pinpoint the recent events in Bitola, North Macedonia towards the Roma community in September and October 2020. In this period hate speech against the Roma community on social networks was drastically intensified, which resulted in the occurrence of several cases of police brutality.2

Being aware of the issue of online antigypsyism3, ERGO Network through the PECAO project aims to counter antigypsyist hate speech online by working with young people, using a combination of peer education and monitoring in order to obtain two-fold results: Peer education to achieve a direct change in attitudes and actions of a high number of young people, and monitoring to contribute to better understanding and a more systemic change of policies through advocacy based on the results.

Digital dignity for Roma

Much has changed with the pandemic and many of us thought that living in the 21st century and with the available technologies adapting would be easy. However, the pandemic made the digital divide and social exclusion of vulnerable communities such as Roma even more visible.

According to the FRA study from 20164, over 40 % of Roma in the EU Member State Bulgaria cannot afford a private computer, smartphone or internet access. With the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these long-standing issues around discrimination, educational exclusion and limited access to new technologies have been brought forward.

Beside all the direct health risks, Covid-19 deepened the existing inequalities and made the questions of poverty and lack of access to proper educational services for Roma children more visible than ever. It made clear that care, respect and human dignity in the digital age for Roma have been forgotten or pushed aside. Digital literacy and access to utilities or technologies cause Roma to be left behind; as Roma with no access to electricity or the internet cannot connect, benefit from online education or online services.

The way forward

When it comes to creating a safer internet space for Roma and ensure digital dignity, ERGO Network believes that we need to work on:

    • Higher awareness of journalists’ ethic commissions on the prevalence and impact of antigypsyist hate speech online, leading to improved self-regulation guidelines.
    • Higher awareness of national equality bodies and other relevant state institutions on the prevalence and impact of antigypsyist hate speech online, leading to better programmes targeting antigypsyism.
    • Stronger adherence by IT companies to the Code of Conduct on countering online hate speech.
    • Better data collection on hate crime and hate speech disaggregated by ethnicity and gender to allow analysis of trends by member states.
    • Stronger condemnation of antigypsyist hate speech in the public discourse.
    • More positive narratives promoted by young people online to counter antigypsyist hate speech.
    • Reducing the digital divide by investing in access to utilities and technologies, thus preventing the exclusion of Roma from the internet space, as well as by creating digital support and literacy programs.

1 Thirty years of research into hate speech: topics of interest and their evolution: Alice Tontodimamma, Eugenia Nissi, Annalina Sarra & Lara Fontanella

2 Hate speech in social media and the impact on the Roma community: Romalitico, Marija Sulejmanova

 

PECAO’s workshop materials and media monitoring tool now available

PECAO’s workshop materials and media monitoring tool are available for download

With approximately 12 Million people living in Europe for centuries, the Roma are the continent’s biggest ethnic minority. At the same time they are the its most disliked and discriminated minority, with every third person not wanting to have a Roma neighbour and 80% of Roma living at the risk of poverty.

Antigypsyism – a specific form of racism against people who are perceived as ‘Gypsies’ in the public imagination, is at the core of the social exclusion and discrimination of Roma.

PECAO will counter antigypsyist hate speech online by working with young people, using a combination of peer education and monitoring in order to obtain two-fold results: the peer education methodology will achieve a direct change in attitudes and actions of a high number of young people, and the monitoring will contribute to better understanding and a more systemic change of policies through advocacy based on the results.

By using the standard workshop materials created by the consortium and translated in the available languages (EN, BG, CZ, HU, RO and ES), participants of the workshop will be able to understand the phenomena of antigypsyist hate speech and its impact on Roma, as well as the importance to monitor and report that speech online. Furthermore, the participants of the workshop can engage into advocacy and work towards better anti-discrimination policies by addressing antigypsyism as bias motivation, as well as raise awareness among various stakeholders about the antigypsyist hate speech in online media.

The project consortium of PECAO consists of the following partners and funding:

Funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) with co-funding from Google.org:

Funding from the Google.Org Impact Challenge on Safety in the framework of ERGO Network’s project Peer education to counter antigypsyist online hate speech:

The standard workshop materials are available in English, Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian and Spanish language for the moment. Should you have any additional requests for session outlines examples, exercises, or need for additional information concerning the topic, please write an e-mail to ERGO network at info@ergonetwork.org by adding the word PECAO to your subject line.

The materials consist of the following documents:

  • M01 – Objectives, Impact and Methodology
  • M02 – Aim and objectives of the workshop
  • M03 – Programme of the workshop
  • M04 – Non-formal education
  • M05 – Protocol form for monitoring media content with hate speech

As well as the media monitoring tool with a glossary available within the tool.

You can access the materials here and media monitoring tool here.

Publicity Disclaimer:

This publication was funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme  (REC 2014-2020) and Google.Org Impact Challenge on Safety. The European’s Commission’s and Google.Org’s support for the production does not constitute and endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views of the authors only, and the European Commission and Google.Org cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained there.

PECAO peer educators training online and offline

PECAO peer educators training online and offline

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the work we usually do and the way we implement our projects. ERGO Network together with its partners in the framework of the “Peer education to counter antigypsyist hate speech” (PECAO) project adapted to this new situation and moved on with the project implementation.

Peer educators are the most crucial part of PECAO. They receive training to conduct peer education workshops and activities with other young people, as well as monitor and report hate speech online.

Due to the restrictions and health measures in place, ERGO Network and Integro Association combined an online and offline training for the group of 50 peer educators to make the best out of the situation for everyone.

Those who could not travel to Bulgaria had the opportunity to follow an online training course from to 13 August, and those able to travel to Bulgaria had their offline training course in Albena from 10 to 15 August 2020.

Our partner Integro took care of all necessary measures to ensure safety of the participants in the offline training by respecting all protocols when it comes to protection against Covid-19.

During both trainings, the participants could work with and be trained by professionals in the field of addressing hate speech. For example, with Prof. Tomova the participants received information about the impact of stereotypes and prejudices and how media constructs, reinforces and consolidates negative stereotypes and prejudices against Roma. They also worked on content analysis of media products that target Roma.

Throughout the training course, participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge on the topic, and experts such as lawyers Ms. Mihaylova and Mr. Kashamov introduced the international frameworks that protects against hate speech, as well as shared and made comparison with their national legislation.

The training ended with practical exercises of writing complaints and signal against hate speech, as well as understanding the standards of various social networks for countering hate speech online.

As next step, the peer educators and mentors of the PECAO project will start with their peer education and monitoring activities, which are going to last from October 2020 until September 2021. ERGO Network and its partners will keep you updated on the implementation.

For more information, please follow our Facebook page.

Peer educators combatting antigypsyism online

Peer educators combatting antigypsyism online in time of a pandemic

– A new internet era for Roma youth will begin soon!

Living in the era of web 2.0, soon to be 3.0 sure has its advantages. Everything that we need, want and desire is just a click away (literally)! However, it is as well a  vivid example of how technologies with a transformative potential such as the Internet bring with them both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities in terms of exercising freedom of expression, and on the other hand the challenges of defending  human dignity online. This being said, we are left with something called Online hate speech.[1]

Having this in mind, ERGO Network and its partners from 10 European countries (Integro Bulgaria, Nevo Parudimos Romania, FAGiC Spain, Romaversitas Hungary, RomanoNet Czech Republic, Roma Active Albania, RROMA North Macedonia, Chiricli Ukraine, Upre Roma Italy, La Voix des Rroms France) are starting to implement the project called PECAO – Peer education to counter antigypsyist hate speech online supported by DG Justice and Google.Org for the next 24 months.

Knowing that hate speech as a manifestation of antigypsyism needs particular attention because of its multiplier effect, where it influences public opinion, fuels tension and paves the way for discrimination and hate crimes, the consortium of the project manages to bring clear objectives to the table:

  1. To reach out to at least 2000 young people in Spain, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Italy, France, North Macedonia and Albania through peer education activities in universities or youth clubs to raise their awareness of the adverse impact of hate speech on Roma and to empower them to recognize and report hate speech online.
  2. To empower 50 young Roma peer educators in 10 countries to monitor hate speech in online media and report cases of hate speech to IT companies, national equality bodies and relevant state institutions to reinforce implementation of anti-discrimination legislation. Their work will lead to national datasets of at least 150 cases, as well as at least 50 reported cases.
  3. To advocate towards national and EU decision-makers for anti-discrimination policies that take into account the online sphere as well as antigypsyism as a bias motivation for hate speech and hate crime.
  4. To use the experiences of peer educators and results of the monitoring to raise awareness of other stakeholders (wider civil society, educational practitioners, young people) of antigypsyist hate speech in online media and the urgency to counteract.

The target group are young Roma peer educators and other young people, as they are primary users of social media and often lack media literacy and critical thinking. Indirectly, the project targets Roma people across Europe who will benefit from reduced hate speech, which impacts negatively on their well-being and their position in society.

Working online enables the partners to be innovative and use peer education to reach a high number of young people, with young Roma themselves being the peer educators. At the same time as educating their peers and raising their awareness of antigypsyist hate speech, they will automatically also act as role models for other young people. The project combines peer education and media monitoring in order to obtain two-fold results: the peer education methodology can achieve a direct change in attitudes and actions of a high number of young people, and the monitoring will contribute to better understanding and a more systemic change of policies through advocacy based on the results.

Having in mind the pandemic COVID-19 that is spreading cross out Europe, the PECAO partners are starting to organize their work online, taking into consideration their well-being and the safety of their community. The main focus this period is utilizing platforms such as ZOOM for online meetings and preparation, setting up the foreseen calls for peer educators and mentors. And for the first time, ERGO will try to host an online Kick-Off meeting and bring in the partners, by having a nice agenda and working plan for a couple of days in April! Updates on how it goes will follow soon!

Meanwhile, many ERGO members are following protocols regarding the pandemic COVID-19, as well as helping the Roma community by sharing information, products they need and by staying organized, safe and well!

[1] Online hate speech is a type of speech that takes place online, generally social media or the internet, with the purpose of attacking a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.