Language technology and citizens against hate speech on the Internet

Fight hate speechIn the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks of a "tsunam of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering" inside and outside the Internet and calls for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.

In the international DeTACT project, universities, tech companies, NGOs and citizens in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are cooperating to counter hate speech on the Internet.

The aim of the initiative is to show the population what resources it has to fight against polarization on the Internet.


The number of hate comments on the Internet has increased significantly, especially in response to the refugee and migration movements in recent years. Social networks are often accused of acting as echo chambers that lead to the expression of more radical views than is the case with face-to-face conversations.

As a consequence, hate comments shape today's public discourse on a wide range of topics. In Germany, for example, extremist propaganda on social media, which openly calls for violence against refugees, has increased significantly.

Europol also reports that violent extremism is spreading, "which is partly fueled by the fear of a perceived Islamization of society and the fear of migration".

DeTACT (Detect Then ACT) aims to combine human efforts with artificial intelligence to monitor hate speech online and to create campaigns that are a positive response to hate comments. In these campaigns, users who observe hate comments online are encouraged to take a position themselves. The DeTACT project is about equipping citizens with the right tools that enable them to fight against misinformation, conflicts, bullying, racism and sexism in social networks.

With the help of language technology, which is able to automatically identify toxic comments, committed users can help to defuse strongly polarizing discussions in a self-regulating way.

At the same time, the project will report illegal cases of extremism and radicalization in line with EU guidelines for social media and tech companies.

While the Belgian company Text gain and the University of Hildesheim (Germany) are working on new language technology processes to identify illegal content in different European countries, the NGO Media Diversity Institute will train hundreds of social media users who want to fight against hate online. The aim is to convey how hate comments can be countered constructively, as well as to build critical thinking and resilience. The Media Diversity Institute is advised by researchers from the University of Antwerp and the Dutch research and consulting agency EMMA.

At the same time at the Belgian Karel de Grote University College of Applied Sciences and Arts dozens of art students across Europe are being trained to design memes that can be used to counter dehumanizing social media propaganda in a non-offensive manner.

The aim of the DeTACT initiative is to show the population what resources it has to fight against polarization on the Internet.

The initiative is funded by the European Union's Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) program.

The project duration is 24 months (September 2019 - August 2021).


You can find more information about the project on the DeTACT website.

If you want to learn more about the project, contact the project coordinator Gijs van Beek ( or Sylvia Jaki of Hildesheim University (


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Author: Dries Debackere

Machine translation: SDL Machine Translation (previously SDL BeGlobal)

Post-editing: Lightning Quick Post-Editor 8

Source language: Deutsch (de)

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