The students look at examples of hate speech and deconstruct the main elements involved, in order to improve their understanding of this phenomenon.


  • to get an understanding about hate speech
  • to identify the characteristics of hate speech
  • to raise awareness about the consequences of hate speech for victims and society

Material needed

  • Copies of the case studies
  • Copies of the grid for analysis
  • Paper, pens


  • It is useful to familiarise yourself with the concept of hate speech, its manifestations and also the debates around the concept.
  • Copy the case studies for the group work (see Annex).
  • Prepare a flipchart with the Council of Europe definition of hate speech (see below).

Step by step description

Tips for the facilitator:

  • In view of this activity, it is important to have a good overview of the main debates triggered by hate speech (particularly in relation to freedom of expression and combating of racism and discrimination).
  • The students may feel tempted to rule off hate speech by simply choosing as solutions banning it or making it illegal. It is important to underline that, while legal solutions can help, they cannot always be feasible or effective. Especially in the online space, legislation is sometimes limited by national jurisdictions. Encourage your students to think not only at hate speech in terms of a manifestation, but also in terms of prevention, education, information, and solidarity with victims.

Introduction (10 minutes)

  • Share with the students the following two statements:
“She left me. I hated this, it felt so bad. After a while, I moved on.”
“I hate you because of who you are. I hate all the people like you. You should be sent away forever!”
  • Continue with a brainstorming on what makes these two statements different. Make a point between hate as an expression of a distress, a feeling or sensation (as opposed to, for example, feeling love to someone) due to a given situation or due to something someone did, and hate as an expression of the opposition us vs them, a way of seeing others in a negative way, as inferior/different and unworthy of dignity or respect because of what they are; this perception justifies a perceived need to take (violent) action against them.
  • Present the Council of Europe definition of hate speech:
“Hate speech covers all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, antisemitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.”
(Committee of Ministers, Council of Europe)
  • Discuss the definition of hate speech with the students in order to make sure they understand it. Clarify that in this context, hate content spreads expressions calling for violence towards some people just because of what they are (hate as lack of respect towards the dignity of another person). Also clarify that this definition and even legal definitions may be incomplete, and that some comments which legally cannot be considered as hate speech do still contribute to a climate of hate, discrimination, racism and violence in society.
  • Ask the students if they have already witnessed hate speech and let them reconstruct such situations.

Case studies (45 minutes)

Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 students and hand over to each group one or two case(s) depending on the time left and their level of knowledge. Ask them to discuss the examples and to fill in the grid for analysis for each case. After 30 minutes come back to the plenary and discuss the outcomes of the group work.

Discussion (20 minutes)

From the information the students brought back to the plenary, start a more general discussion about hate speech, asking questions such as:

  • What did you identify as the main causes of hate speech?
  • Which consequences of hate speech did you find out?
  • How is the online space changing the ways hate content is spread?
  • Do you consider the European Council definition of hate speech useful/complete? What would you change, drop, underline or add in it?
  • What can be possible responses of society to hate speech? Should/can all hate speech be banned? What other solutions could there be?

Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing

  • Did you like the exercise? Why or why not?
  • Was it difficult to answer the questions?
  • Have you already experienced hate speech?
  • How does hate speech affect victims?
  • What could young people do against hate speech?

Suggestions for adaptations and variations

  • Replace the analysing grid of questions with a tick-or-cross exercise or a filling in exercise.
  • Shorten the number of questions and/or adapt them, if they seem to be too complex for your group.
  • Create your own case studies based on problems of your school, community or country.
  • Introduce the “No Hate Speech” campaign of the Council of Europe:

Reference / original source of the method

This activity was facilitated by Gisele Evrard in her Workshop “Towards No Hate Speech?” during the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.

Further tips and resources

Keen, Ellie; Georgescu, Mara: Bookmarks – A manual combating hate speech online through human rights education. Council of Europe, 2014:

This manual is designed to support the No Hate Speech Movement. It gathers activities designed for young people aged 13 to 18, however they are adaptable to other age ranges.

Annex 1: Case studies

Annex 2: Grid for analysis