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How to deal with hate speech

by Jericho Zafra

AFTER a video of 17-year-old Zoe Gabriel went viral online for her definition of the word luxury, netizens flocked to her account to send hate messages, demeaning her for her “My first luxury bag” content.

According to Gabriel, the moment her video went viral, the first thing that came to her mind was to defend her dad, who made an effort to buy her a bag that, for her, was a luxury.

“I can’t believe I got hate over a bag that I was so excited to have,” she said.

On Monday, during the first session of the House of Representatives, Negros Oriental (Third District) Rep Arnolfo Teves Jr. said there has to be a law regarding online bashing and decried “too much democracy” in the country as a result of bashing.

“Bashing on social media is too much, and it’s not right anymore. Democracy is okay, freedom of speech is okay, and criticism is okay, but bashing is not right anymore. There needs to be a law for this,” he said.

Teves also filed House Bill 129 in 2022, which seeks to require all Filipinos to register their social media accounts to address cyberbullying, harassment, online scam, libel, and other social media-related concerns.

How did Gabriel deal with hate speech, bashing

For her part, Gabriel said she could handle the unkind comments on one of her videos by grounding herself in the people and things she loves, including reading a book and spending time with her family.

“Instead of dwelling and staying focused on the bad things people are saying, I instead choose to look towards all the good things I have,” she said.

What can you do?

In a “Words can be Weapons” advisory from the United Nations, it said that “hate speech online can lead to cruelty and violence in real life.” For its #NoToHate campaign, the UN said those who are experiencing hate speech online could do the following:

Pause – Steer clear from expressing hate comments yourself or spreading them. Everyone should take responsibility to halt the propagation of hate and false information, whether they do so online or off.

Fact-check – Make sure to use search engines, fact-checking tools, and other reputable sources to determine the content’s origins in order to spot incorrect and biased material, especially hate speech propaganda.

React – When necessary, speak up, even when it’s someone else being persecuted online. Call out hate speech to make it apparent that you disagree with its message while speaking up against it politely but powerfully.

Challenge the hate – Spreading your own counter-speech to ensure that hate is not the dominant narrative is one strategy to combat hateful rhetoric. Critical comments that promote tolerance, fairness, and truth can offset hateful content and take a stand for individuals who are the victims of hatred.

Report – When comments seem to be toxic and no longer healthy for your mental health, you can report the statement or the account that posted the hateful thread/reply. 

Educate – Everyone can help raise awareness regarding hate speech. Regardless if it’s online or offline, a step against hate speech can make a massive impact towards reaching a social media environment free from hatred.

Personal advice

Despite learning to handle hate speech in the most brutal way, the 17-year-old Gabriel said those who struggled with the same experience should not wipe off their innate goodness just because of bad people. 

Gabriel also said people could also deal with hate speech by knowing their core, sticking to what they love, and doing the things they are passionate about.

“Know who you are and focus on your every beautiful trait – don’t let anybody take them away from you,” said Gabriel.

Banner Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash



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