Project LOVE

A digital observatory promoting inclusive narratives online.

About

LOVE is promoting inclusive narratives and opposing toxic narratives online. We believe in the necessity of countering online hate speech, identity-based oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, …) and harmful narratives through every tool available. The project is taking shape in response to the hideous acts of racist and white supremacist terrorism that hurt our community in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

The person who committed this act of violence is similar to many others who have committed acts of violence around the world: he found support and reinforcement for racist, exclusionary views on online spaces that also promote and motivate acts of violence against others. These views and acts are harmful to civil and open society, and must be met in the very same spaces where they are nurtured and amplified - online.

Why?

We are building a digital observatory to sustain the fight against toxic narratives and to recenter the conversation around inclusive narratives. Toxic narratives occur in and co-opt public spaces online.

We oppose fascist, racist, and hateful online narratives. We want to stop their diffusion and reduce their impact as much as possible. We want to help our community to grow cultural and emotional defences against toxic narratives. We want to enable and sustain the empowerment of Māori, Pasifika and all migrant communities online. We want to encourage a culture of responsibility and inclusiveness, working with media outlets and online platforms. We want better, more inclusive, more loving narratives to spread. We want narratives that extend beyond one group, and narratives that expand to include the perspectives and sounds of many, many voices. Also, we believe that diminishing toxic narratives online also makes online spaces more open, free, and inclusive to many people who have been silenced, harmed or marginalised by harm-causing actions, both online and off. We aspire to create a more open, connected global society.

To achieve our goal, the digital observatory will work toward increasing awareness, advancing knowledge, building education, and offering intervention. More detail will be announced when the observatory is officially launched.

  • Awareness: our community needs to know what is going on, to be able to face it. Where do the toxic narratives come from? Who do they target? What is the connection between online and offline hatred?
  • Knowledge: our community needs to understand why and how these narratives appear, how they diffuse, and how they escalate into violent acts both online and in the physical world. How do inclusive narratives overwhelm toxic ones? How can we facilitate this process? How do we enable bloggers and online community platforms to identify harmful speech?
  • Education: our community, our media outlets, and our people need to build up the capacity to engage (and disengage) with hateful narratives in a way that minimises negative impacts and promotes alternative, inclusive narratives. How do we recognize hateful propaganda? How do we avoid amplifying racist voices?
  • Intervention: our community needs to engage and act, both online and offline, to eradicate toxic narratives. We need to build the ability to create counter-narratives, positive content, and loving interactions. How do we disempower and isolate racist and exclusionary speech in online discussions? How do we stop hatred? How do we intervene in a fruitful way, in order to make online and physical spaces safer in the absence of harm?

Who are we?

We are many. We are one.

The response has been heartwarming: a range of different groups and individuals responded immediately to our call. Some have expressed interest in committing more in the long run rather than now, beginning to build sustainability for this work. The data science community is responding, thanks to the contribution and help of many individuals and companies. The journalism community is responding, and already we can see the first results in the national press. Academics are responding, both locally at the University of Canterbury, nationally and globally. A number of grassroots organisations (anti-fascist, anti-racist, socialist, …) in Ōtautahi Christchurch and elsewhere are responding. Citizens are responding, locally and globally. We know this is a worldwide problem that erupts across many geographies.

The coordinated efforts of multiple stakeholders provide capacity for a wide range of skills in the project: street-savvy activism, digital humanities and pedagogy, data science, cyber-security, media, journalism, arts. We already have some computing power, and we are working hard to expand our capacities in response to these violent actions. We acknowledge that our capacity should extend beyond the technological and include empathy, emotional sensitivity and deep and honest acknowledgement at any part of our actions that unintentionally contribute to violence in society.

What do we need?

  • Coordination: LOVE is currently being established officially. It’s easy to get momentum, but it’s hard to keep pushing. This is especially true of any digital activism. We are working hard to ensure continuity for the project, and we will need help to achieve this goal.
  • Information: LOVE aspires to have an understanding that is as comprehensive as possible of the online conversations that may impact New Zealand.
  • Knowledge: LOVE needs to grow its knowledge base and make it available to our community, including those most affected by harmful narratives. This goes hand in hand with education and the work offline, in community with others.
  • Time: LOVE knows time is limited, for everybody, always. So let’s be kind with ourselves. Nobody will be asked to contribute more time than they are comfortable with. The important thing is to keep this alive, and that requires sustainability - in our collective and individual actions, in the long term.
  • Money: LOVE is at the moment relying completely on donated time and resources. This model, though, does not ensure the continuity necessary to sustain this effort and it limits the coordination, data, knowledge and time resources available. We also acknowledge that generally, the people most able to volunteer their time are those with some amount of privilege. We are actively seeking funds and other resources to support our work.

Contact

How you can help

If you’re able to support this project in any of the above ways, in particular with financial support, technical expertise, or your time, please get in touch. Show your love to:

love@projectlove.nz