Czech Republic: HateFree Culture project refutes online hoaxes about refugees
HateFree Culture, a project that is part of the Czech Government's campaign against hate violence and racism, has issued the following press release:
In connection with the growing levels of immigration into Europe, many shocking claims are being made, primarily through online social networking sites, about Muslims or refugees. In many cases these are fabricated reports that distort reality.
The HateFree Culture Initiative has therefore decided to correct or refute these hoaxes through a long-term, systematic effort. Furious immigrants in southern Italy, European women being raped by non-Europeans, billboards in Africa advertising Finland as a place where rape can be committed with impunity - these are some of the most frequent rumors being shared through social networking sites by thousands of people in the Czech Republic.
There is almost no existing counterbalance to these rumors that is easy to find online. HateFree Culture has therefore decided to create a special section of its blog, "Hoaxes", where distorted reports or rumors will be systematically corrected.
The project is also planning to publish simple instructions as to how Internet users can easily, rapidly fact-check suspicious online reports themselves. "Most hoaxes are created by misusing older photos and videos, taking them out of context and presenting them as evidence of a current situation. Frequently the information is also distorted, with disinformation being attributed to incidents that have actually occurred, primarily the claim that the perpetrator of a crime is an illegal immigrant or Muslim. Many reports are completely fabricated," says Marie Škardová, HateFree Culture's expert on information security.
"Our aim is to refute these rumors, clarify particular situations, and simultaneously create a searchable list of these hoaxes along with instructions on how to easily fact-check the information," she says. HateFree Culture has long been involved in refuting fraudulent reports and rumors.
Last fall the project introduced the Hejtomat ("Hate-o-mat") tool on its website, which provides statements from experts and state institutions about long-existing rumors concerning Romani people in particular. The new platform will focus on the current hateful rumors making the rounds on social networking sites.
"I consider the refutation of hoaxes to be a basic step toward combating hatred of various groups. It is precisely such fraudulent reports that unnecessarily escalate what is already a tense situation, and many individuals and movements are exploiting them for their own gain," says Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier.
"Creating such platforms, especially through a Government project, is not just a necessary step, but also an important public gesture," he says. The initiative also provides the opportunity for the public to get involved in refuting online rumors.
To report distorted or fabricated information, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and contribute to the content of the new platform. The HateFree Culture project is implemented by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, a department of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, and is financed by the Norwegian Funds and the Czech Republic.
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