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An anti-bullying charity by the name of Ditch the Label recently released information revealing that online hate speech has risen 20% in the UK and US since the start of COVID-19. The youth-focused charity commissioned the research which studied 263 million conversations in the UK and US from 2019 to mid-2021. 50.1 million of those conversations included racist hate speech.

The report also found that there seemed to be a spike in hate speech during major news events such as when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020 and again in June 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests. As Ditch the Label strives to support young people who have suffered bullying and prejudice, the charity’s CEO, Liam Hackett said the organisation has been “inundated” with “extreme” incidents of hate speech during the pandemic and especially during these major news events. Some of the cases of abuse have even included death threats.

Hackett cites lockdowns during the pandemic as a major factor in the rise of online hate speech. He said, “We already know from research that people who bully and troll genuinely may have low mental health, they may have trauma, they may be in an abusive household, they may be being targeted and bullied themselves.” Many people have suffered from poor mental health during lockdowns, making them feel bored and like they have little control of their lives. Hackett said this combined with the copious amounts of free time people had, created the “perfect storm.” Some people used the internet to release their frustrations.

Ditch the Label’s CEO said the reason this information about hate speech is significant is “Because we’ve normalised it and that’s part of the problem – this should not be considered a normal part of life.” The charity has recently been working with the government to introduce a law that would force social media companies to better control hate speech and abuse on their platforms. Hackett also suggests educating people from a young age about the dangers of online hate speech. He said people need to be taught about the “very devastating consequences” online bullying can have on people.

Difficult words

Youth (n): Young people.

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

Strive (v): To work towards or try to do something.

Inundate (v): To be overwhelmed or made extremely busy with something.

Cite (v): To say the reason for something or where something is from.

Troll (v/n): To purposefully say something rude or offensive online.

Trauma (n): A terrible experience that causes poor mental health.

Copious (adj): Large amounts.

Devastating (adj): Extremely hurtful.

Activities

For listening practice, listen to the recorded article here:

American English Audio: Coming Soon!

Match the Synonym!

1. YouthA. Overwhelm
2. SpikeB. Distress
3. StriveC. Rise
4. InundateD. Disasterous
5. CiteE. Young people.
6. TrollF. Abundant
7. TraumaG. Refer
8. CopiousH. Try
9. DevastatingI. Provoke

True or False?

1. Ditch the Label is a company that sells protective gear to young people. T / F

2. The research was paid for by Ditch the Label. T / F

3. Online hate speech has risen 20% since COVID-19. T / F

4. There was a decrease in hate speech during the Black Lives Matter protests. T / F

5. Liam Hackett said the pandemic has been a very busy time for the charity. T / F

6. Lockdowns have not affected the amount of online hate speech. T / F

7. People were able to travel freely during lockdowns which helped mental health. T / F

8. Bullies usually have low mental health or have suffered trauma. T / F

9. Lockdowns created the perfect storm for online hate speech. T / F

10. Ditch the Label said they will not work with the government to solve this issue. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. charity / youth-focused / 263 million / The / the / which / research / studied / commissioned / conversations

2. even / included / of / of / death / cases / abuse / threats / Some / have / the

3. during / have / suffered / poor / lockdowns / from / mental / health / Many / people

4. used / their / Some / the / to / people / internet / frustrations / release

5. introduce / The / recently / has / the / to / government / law / with / been / working / a / charity

Listening and Vocabulary

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

American English Audio: Coming Soon!

SuggestsMentalSuffered
DeclaredCommissionedBullying
FactorSignificantAbuse

An anti-(1)__________ charity by the name of Ditch the Label recently released information revealing that online hate speech has risen 20% in the UK and US since the start of COVID-19. The youth-focused charity (2)______________ the research which studied 263 million conversations in the UK and US from 2019 to mid-2021. 50.1 million of those conversations included racist hate speech.

The report also found that there seemed to be a spike in hate speech during major news events such as when the WHO (3)__________ COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020 and again in June 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests. As Ditch the Label strives to support young people who have suffered bullying and prejudice, the charity’s CEO, Liam Hackett said the organisation has been “inundated” with “extreme” incidents of hate speech during the pandemic and especially during these major news events. Some of the cases of (4)________ have even included death threats.

Hackett cites lockdowns during the pandemic as a major (5)_________ in the rise of online hate speech. He said, “We already know from research that people who bully and troll genuinely may have low mental health, they may have trauma, they may be in an abusive household, they may be being targeted and bullied themselves.” Many people have (6)__________ from poor (7)________ health during lockdowns, making them feel bored and like they have little control of their lives. Hackett said this combined with the copious amounts of free time people had, created the “perfect storm.” Some people used the internet to release their frustrations.

Ditch the Label’s CEO said the reason this information about hate speech is (8)____________ is “Because we’ve normalised it and that’s part of the problem – this should not be considered a normal part of life.” The charity has recently been working with the government to introduce a law that would force social media companies to better control hate speech and abuse on their platforms. Hackett also (9)__________ educating people from a young age about the dangers of online hate speech. he said people need to be taught about the “very devastating consequences” online bullying can have on people.

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?