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A new report says online hate speech has risen by 20% in the US and UK since the start of COVID-19. Hate speech is when someone says something negative about a person, usually something that person cannot change. For example, saying something hateful about a person’s race or religion. A youth charity called Ditch the Label studied 263 million online conversations from the US and UK between 2019 – mid-2021 to find this information. 50.1 million of those conversations included racist hate speech.

Ditch the Label found that a spike in hate speech would occur during big news events. Some of the events where this happened were when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and during the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020. Hate speech was incredibly high during these events.

Ditch the Label is an anti-bullying charity that supports young people who have been affected by bullying and prejudice. Their CEO Liam Hackett said that they have been “inundated” with incidents of online hate speech during COVID-19. Hackett believes this happened because lockdowns meant people were stuck at home with a lot of time. He said people who bully others usually have low mental health or have been through trauma. Lockdowns negatively affected people’s mental health and made them feel like they had no control of their lives. This, combined with having a lot of free time and boredom made many people go online and say hateful things.

Hackett also said that the reason this information is important is that hate speech has been normalised now. He said, “We’ve normalised it and that’s part of the problem – this should not be considered a normal part of life.” Ditch the Label has been working with the government to create a law that would force social media sites to better control hate speech. The charity also wants to educate young people about the dangers of hate speech.

Difficult Words

Youth (n): Young people.

Spike (n/v): A quick or sharp rise.

Bully (n/v): To continuously bother someone because of something they can’t change.

Prejudice (n): To judge someone or something without knowing everything about it.

Inundate (v): To overwhelm or make someone extremely busy with something.

Trauma (n): A very bad experience that hurts someone’s mental health.

Activities

For listening practice, listen to the recorded article here:

American English Audio: Coming Soon!

Match the Synonym!

 1. Youth A. Quick rise.
 2. Spike B. Mean person.
 3. Bully C. Judge badly.
 4. Prejudice D. Make busy.
 5. Inundate E. Young person.

True or False?

1. Online hate speech decreased by 20% during COVID-19. T / F

2. A charity studied 263 million online conversations. T / F

3. The conversations happened over 5 years ago. T / F

4. Less hate speech happens during big news events. T / F

5. The charity’s CEO was to educate people about hate speech. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. online / 20% / report / says / speech / risen / A / has / hate / new / by

2. was / speech / Hate / these / during / high / incredibly / events

3. anti-bullying / people / that / young / supports / an / charity / Ditch the Label / is

4. said / have / low / usually / He / people / bully / who / others / mental / health

5. part / of / We’ve / the / problem / and / normalised / it / that’s

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

American English Audio:

CombinedSupportsDeclared
ForceReportRacist

A new (1)________ says online hate speech has risen by 20% in the US and UK since the start of COVID-19. Hate speech is when someone says something negative about a person, usually something that person cannot change. For example, saying something hateful about a person’s race or religion. A youth charity called Ditch the Label studied 263 million online conversations from the US and UK between 2019 – mid-2021 to find this information. 50.1 million of those conversations included (2)________ hate speech.

Ditch the Label found that a spike in hate speech would occur during big news events. Some of the events where this happened were when the WHO (3)__________ COVID-19 a pandemic and during the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020. Hate speech was incredibly high during these events.

Ditch the Label is an anti-bullying charity that (4)___________ young people who have been affected by bullying and prejudice. Their CEO Liam Hackett said that they have been “inundated” with incidents of online hate speech during COVID-19. Hackett believes this happened because lockdowns meant people were stuck at home with a lot of time. He said people who bully others usually have low mental health or have been through trauma. Lockdowns negatively affected people’s mental health and made them feel like they had no control of their lives. This, (5)___________ with having a lot of free time and boredom made many people go online and say hateful things.

Hackett also said that the reason this information is important is that hate speech has been normalised now. He said, “We’ve normalised it and that’s part of the problem – this should not be considered a normal part of life.” Ditch the Label has been working with the government to create a law that would (6)________ social media sites to better control hate speech. The charity also wants to educate young people about the dangers of hate speech.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. Have you seen hate speech online before?
5. Do you think online hate speech is a problem in your country?
6. Is it the government’s job to fix the issue of hate speech?
7. Are there any other reasons you think hate speech has risen during COVID-19?
8. How can we educate young people about hate speech?
9. Should hate speech be taught about in schools?
10. Is it social media websites’ job to control hate speech?
11. Do you think hate speech is dangerous?
12. Do you think young people suffer from more hate speech than older people?
13. Should children be allowed on social media?
14. Do you often use social media?
15. Did you experience a lockdown? Did it affect your mental health?
16. Were there bullies in your school as a child?
17. What should schools do about bullies?
18. Do you think people have become more prejudiced towards each other since COVID-19?
19. Are people very divided in your country?
20. What has been the hardest part about COVID-19 for you?