All too often it begins with hate. It did for Ivan. Living in the small English town of Lowestoft with his two daughters, Ivan began to feel a simmering hatred. He forgot the things he enjoyed. He drifted from his friends. His anger manifested in a hatred of Muslims. The hate only began to ebb when a Scottish Muslim, unperturbed by Ivan’s feelings, insisted on speaking with him. Ivan subsequently met that same man several times, and each time his notions about the Muslim community were challenged. Through the experience of interacting with another human directly, the stereotypes he had bought into started to shatter - Ivan gradually began to change. Speaking to Muslim community groups these days, Ivan says, “Hate always hurts the hater more than the hated”. Ivan choose to exit hate from his life. The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) has been telling his story, among others, through their #ExitHate campaign.
In order to get the stories of the #ExitHate campaign to as many people as possible, we provided mentoring and awarded RAN a pro bono TwitterforGood grant to amplify their campaign. The results have been unprecedented: the video content received 2.59 million impressions, just under 900,000 views and 32,100 engagements, with the cost-per-engagement as low as it could possibly be. While the promotion nudged these videos into timelines, it was the power of the stories that kept people watching.
Anaële’s story began with a trip to Saudi Arabia with her family in 2007. Born and raised in Paris, Anaële was enjoying a picnic with her parents near Medina when a car pulled up beside them. Two men got out of the car and asked them where they were from. Before Anaële could answer, the men began shooting. Anaële ducked for cover under a car and saw bullet shells hitting the sand. She lost her father that day and still wonders why. Yet, for all the heartbreak and distress, Anaële has not given into her feelings of revenge. “I hated what they did. But if I were to do the same, I would hate myself even more. Revenge destroys you.” The path to becoming like her father’s attackers would begin with hate. She rejected it.
These stories are powerful counternarratives to extremism. Over the last few years, Twitter has been working with organisations across the world to encourage the development of counternarratives that present a hopeful path for those who might be susceptible to radicalisation. We’ve conducted training sessions and hackathons in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Northern Ireland and Austria, to name a few. We talk about the power of Twitter, as an open and discursive platform, to share alternative views that stand in bright contrast to the darkness that characterises extremist speech.
At each session, we hear from communities across Europe who discuss their experiences of hate and violence. Counternarratives remind people of all they can’t afford to leave behind; family, friends, a community, and love. They also assure us of what we can afford to lose: hate. This is starkly illustrated by the brave stories of RAN’s campaign and put simply, #ExitHate is all about ending the cycles of hate and violence.
With #ExitHate, the roots of hatred are being exposed. Twitter is proud to support this initiative.