What Can Be Done to Combat Online Hate Speech?

Hate speech pervades the Internet and it causes a great deal of harm. It poisons debate, fuels prejudice, paves the way for real-world violence and divides society. What’s the best way to deal with it? What’s the proper response to hateful comments? Please click through our examples.

Robert Bosch Stiftung | January 2018
Stop Hate Speech

1. Fake News

Fake news reinforces one-sided viewpoints and unrealistic world views. It is usually easy to disprove and still nearly impossible to stop. Our examples show you possible reactions.



The commenter checked to see who originally shared the information before reacting. A search engine was used to verify the information, and an assessment of the search results revealed that this news story was incorrect. The counterargument was phrased in such a way as to avoid drawing additional attention to the fake story.


This example shows how fake news stories can reinforce alternative viewpoints and philosophies. By contradicting the story, the commenter is helping to ensure that other non-commenting readers will realize nachrichten.de is a fake news website.

The Expert

Andre Wolf works at “Mimikama“
Schacht; Dr. Barbara Wirl

Andre Wolf works at "Mimikama" – Verein zur Aufklärung über Internetmissbrauch”. He specializes in analyzing Internet content, particularly on social media sites.

2. Direct Hate Speech

Direct hate speech is aimed at individuals and groups. It shifts the line as to what is acceptable to think and say and is often punishable by law. Our examples offer some recommendations for action.


Direct aggression can be reported to the platform operator or website administrator. It’s important to set clear boundaries for the aggressor in order to prevent these sorts of statements from being normalized. Reminding the aggressor of netiquette rules is a good first step.


Direct hate speech is often aimed at individuals or groups. Frequently, it leaves the poster open to prosecution, such as when it involves incitement to commit a crime, as it does here. If you see statements like this, you can report them to the German Association for Voluntary Self-Regulation of Digital Media. The organization’s legal experts will assess the content; they will then pass it on to the authorities and file a police report as necessary.

The Experts

Cornelia Heyken and Christina Dinar
Schacht; Dr. Barbara Wirl

With their project debate//de:hate, Cornelia Heyken and Christina Dinar are campaigning for a democratic culture of digital debate.

3. Indirect Hate Speech

Indirect hate speech is more subtle than direct hate speech. It fuels or justifies existing negative emotions and often comes from fearful, uninformed people. To see the right way to combat indirect hate speech, click through the examples.


The commenter is standing firm and calling out hate speech without allowing him- or herself to be provoked. By referring to the #ichbinhier (or “I’m here”) campaign, he or she is strengthening that position and calling on support. This encourages non-commenting readers to participate in active discussion.


The commenter specifically calls out the belittling depiction of human suffering in the comment without allowing him- or herself to be put on the defensive. The commenter also expresses his or her opinion in a cool-headed way and appeals to shared values. By using the hashtag #ichbinhier (or “I’m here”) and addressing the community at large, the commenter is inviting people to participate in a constructive debate.

The Expert

Susanne Tannert
Schacht; Dr. Barbara Wirl


Susanne Tannert is the moderator of the Facebook group #ichbinhier and is responsible for PR, marketing, and cooperation.

The Magazine "New" (01/2018)

One of the key missions of the Robert Bosch Stiftung is to create new frameworks and set in motion changes in...