Young people who use the internet intensively are increasingly confronted with cyberbullying, hate speech and other forms of digital violence in a widely uncontrolled virtual setting. They are compelled to develop ways to deal with negative content and to stand up against such content in a morally courageous way. However, recent studies carried out by the project team indicate that young people feel powerless as they are convinced that morally courageous engagement is based on means they consider ineffective, like reporting, blocking or commenting. Mobilizing other internet users for support is considered as neither desirable nor effective. This is surprising, in particular with regard to the great number of social movements and other forms of online activism on the internet.
This project aims at investigating how online strategies for mobilization and interconnection can be used in order to develop and encourage youth-adequate morally courageous web demeanor related to perceived digital violence. The project includes both (1) general advocacy against negative content by participating in online initiatives and (2) morally courageous actions related to concrete incidents, in order to strengthen individual engagement by supporting others. The planned study considers online activism against hate speech and cyberbullying as a chance to strengthen the (emotional) cohesion of committed young people and to support individuals by providing a background network, regarding morally courageous online interventions as multifaceted creative forms of expression (e.g. memes, GIFs, emojis, blogs), and thereby, encouraging more than simple reporting. Such an approach contains considerable potential for increasing the attractiveness of online moral courage among young people.
The methodic approach includes focus group discussions and a quantitative online survey, aiming at capturing young people’s (aged 14-18 years) experiences with online activism on diverse issues and concerns, identifying basic mechanisms of mobilization and interconnection, as well as motives for participation and solidarity. Furthermore, we will identify key factors that increase the likelihood of young people’s participation in online activism against hate speech and cyberbullying. The obtained results will provide the basis for a participative action research approach that will be conducted by young people in cooperation with the research team and supported by the project partners in the areas of (online) moral courage, campaigning against online hate, youth and digital media. Findings will be presented and evaluated by means of an online peer-to-peer platform on digital violence. All obtained results will culminate in the development of practical training concepts and information resources with the aim of promoting joint morally courageous online actions against hate speech and cyberbullying among young people.
Assoz. Prof. Dr. Ulrike Zartler
Institut für Soziologie, Universität Wien
Bundesministerium für Inneres
Bundesweites Netzwerk Offene Jugendarbeit (bOJA)
Mauthausen Komitee Österreich
Österreichisches Institut für angewandte Telekommunikation (ÖIAT)