How digital activists around the world are trying to change the tone of social media


A growing network of citizen volunteers in Canada and abroad has joined the "counterspeech" movement, which aims to push back against the spread of hate and disinformation online through positive messages, not confrontation.

Every day, these digital activists - operating under the banner #iamhere - scour the Facebook pages of mainstream news websites in their spare time in search of threads that contain racist, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic or other hateful comments. They typically do not engage online trolls directly; nor do they seek to have their comments deleted.

Instead, they say they aim to post alternative viewpoints using facts, logic and compassion - and then get other members of the group to "like" the heck out of them, so they appear more prominently in the comment section.

"We're carving out space in the hateful comment section, so others can be inspired to speak up," said Alena Helgeson, of Edmonton, a substitute teacher and medical office assistant who founded #iamherecanada, the movement's Canadian offshoot.

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