Express IT – Limitations of freedom of expression and hate speech

1.5 hours

Short overview:

The workshop takes the perspective used by UNESCO in approaching information literacy and connecting this competence with aspects such as freedom of information, freedom of expression, media pluralism and free press, civic participation and hate speech. The workshop can be used to support young people to understand the importance of such rights in democratic communities and societies, while developing their information literacy skills. At the end of the workshop, the young people will be more aware of their freedom of information and freedom of expression rights, and be able to act against expressions that cross a legal and ethical line and enter into the hate speech area.

Objectives of the workshop:

  • To be aware and learn about the ethical and legal issues surrounding the access and use of information;
  • To understand the relations between freedom of information, freedom of expression and democracy;
  • To be able to recognize hate speech and use some methods of reporting/fighting hate speech online.
Methods: Group work Open discussions Presentations
Materials: Flipchart paper Markers
40 mins.

Split the group into teams of 5-6 participants. Each team has to come up with a plan for a program that will develop in their communities called The nice citizens community!

Each team should define a set of rules and limitations that will make all citizens to behave, be nice to each other, etc. For instance, tell the teams that they should think about what topics/issues will be forbidden to talk about in their community, so that nobody will be offended; or what websites/social media platforms should be limited or forbidden, so that people will not be allowed to be mean to each other or to spread fake news, etc. Also, they have to decide how they will impose these rules, so that everyone becomes a good and nice citizen.

The idea is that you have to ‘trick’ the participants in becoming small dictators, limiting people’s freedom of expression and access to information.

Each team will present their plans for the The nice citizens community! program. After all the pres- entations are done, ask the teams to empathize with the citizens that have to respect their rules, how they will feel about them, how they will react, what rights are violated to these rules, if it is the case, etc.

Reflect with the participants on the consequences of such ideal projects on people’s human rights, on democracy, free press, etc.

Methods: Mini-lecture
Materials: Flipchart paper Laptop Markers Video-projector
10 mins.

Introduce to the participants the following aspects, so important for a functional democracy: —

  • Freedom of information;
  • Freedom of self-expression and diversity of opinions;

As a practical example, you could use the following campaign - Students at risk - run by the Norwegian national student organization SAIH, in order to raise awareness of students and human rights violations in the academic world, in non-democratic countries:

Methods: Group work
Materials: Laptop Smarthphones Tablet Video-projector
20 mins.

Ask the participants to go back to their teams and to create a Facebook event, protesting against something simple - for instance, against all the people that smell bad and use public transport, or against those who are driving their car to work instead of taking public transport, etc. They should describe the event as provocative as possible, and add some hate speech posts in the event discus- sions.

The idea behind the game is for them to observe how easy one can use hate speech, even when the topics of discussion do not touch upon people/groups’ attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Each team presents the Facebook event and the provocative posts were created.

Methods: Mini-lecture Open discussions
Materials: Flipchart paper Markers
15 mins.

After the presentations, introduce shortly the concept of hate speech. Then, brainstorm with the whole group on methods/ways they could stop or undermine such events. Encourage them to think as creatively as possible.

Methods: Open discussions
5 mins.

Wrap-up the session by asking the participants to reflect on the main things they learned on access- ing information, expressing ideas, opinions, and on the limits of freedom of expression.


Please share your comments, feedbacks, suggestions about this workshop here.