The plethora of digital media platforms that have shortened distances and facilitated communication has changed relationships and has also started being used by extremists to incite hate and fuel polarisation.
Since the 1990s, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda have been using the internet for recruitment and fundraising, producing videos to amplify their messages. When social media emerged, it enabled these groups to get closer to individuals who may be looking for their identity, for belonging to a cause or a group, for material gains or an adventure. There are many reasons that drive a person to engage with radical ideologies and nowadays these messages are much more appealing than years ago because:
- They can be easily accessed
- Videos are full of sensitive strategies to connect emotionally with the viewer
- Videos merge Hollywood and videogame techniques to enhance the viewer´s experience and invite him/her to be part of the action
- They can be transmitted via peer-to-peer communication
- They have been reproduced on television more frequently as these groups have access to places where journalists cannot go
- Some terrorist groups have their own media apparatus that is charge of producing, editing, and broadcasting information
- Anyone can present himself/herself as an expert and runs his/her own show on the internet to spread his/her ideas (regardless of their nature. They can reproduce conspiracy theories and fake news that fuel polarisation and harm social cohesion)
It is not a coincidence that we feel we live in a society full of hate. These are the messages that we see more frequently on the internet and, without knowing, many people contribute to their spread when they decide to share them. People´s intentions can even be good. Sometimes they share videos produced by terrorists or conspiracy theories to warn their friends about this content. However, instead of combating these ideologies. They are fuelling them.
It is naive, though, to blame solely digital technologies for the vicious circle of hate that has made so many victims. The type of our society must be taken into account. A society that values more images than the being itself. A society that values more emotions than facts. A society that doesn´t have time to long texts and seeks simple explanations. In a society like this historical grievances are reduced to a dichotomy between good and bad. Allies and enemies. In and out.
If societies have become more and more divided and if digital media has contributed to this division in an unparalleled way, who would be best to build bridges than young people?
Words Heal the World is a non-profit organisation (limited company) that was set up to empower students to challenge online hate speech and tackle different types of extremism. It is the only organisation in the world that puts young people as main actors in the development of messages to tackle different types of extremism and also helps increase the visibility of partner organisations that promote peace worldwide.
Its work is based on a tripod, contributing to the work developed by universities, high schools, and dozens of organisations committed with peacebuilding, especially using words to tackle extremism.
Since young people are the main target of extremists, we believe they are the key to tackle extremism and radicalisation. Young people already know how to use social media platforms and they can use their creativity to develop strategies to challenge hate on the internet. Through partnerships with universities, we train students and empower them to use their skills to develop strategies to tackle extremism and help promote the work developed by 23 organisations that advocate for peace. We also bring this topic to the table in high schools, encouraging students to find ways to challenge different types of extremism and inspiring them to use social media for peace.
As a non-profit organisation, we reinvest a majority of our profits to achieve sustainability, grow our reach and ensure the fulfillment of our mission.
Empower young people to break the vicious circle of hate.
The main goals of WORDS HEAL THE WORLD are:
- challenge hate on the internet with content produced by students from different nationalities and backgrounds
- provide young people with knowledge and the skills necessary to deconstruct extremist messages on multiple social media platforms
- help increase the visibility of institutions all over the world that use words to tackle extremism/radicalisation
- inform people about recent reports and events regarding extremism/radicalisation
- provide local and global communities with information about different types of extremism
- empower youth to promote peace through workshops that make them realise they can make a difference in our society
In the absence of a universal definition for the concept of extremism, we define extremism as every ideology that preaches the supremacy of a group in comparison to others due to their culture, religion, color, gender or sexual preferences. Therefore, we consider antisemitism, Islamophobia, jihadism, xenophobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia types of extremism.
We believe the fight against extremism begins in the online space, and there is no one better than young people to use it for peace. Students are the future generation, and we have been training them to use WORDS TO HEAL OUR WORLD.
Extremists have been using words as weapons and we are using them for PEACE.