Young people and radical content online: there is another way
The average age at which children immerse themselves in the digital world and become active online is constantly decreasing. The majority of youth still form their opinions under the primary influence of their family and friends, but a growing number of them also turn to social media to learn about key social issues. In a digital environment, however, they are faced with fake profiles and fake news, as well as manipulative and aggressive content. Messaging inspiring hate, rejection of differences and aggression towards ethnic, religious or other minority or social groups, which are presented as threats, is widely spread online.
A nationally representative survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Democracy reveals that 52% of Bulgarians aged 14–19 have encountered radical content online, which calls for aggression and hate towards certain social groups, and between 12% and 16% of survey participants approve of it. Passive and uncritical consumption of this type of content is associated with higher levels of approval to calls for violence or extremist action. Messages of this sort shift the focus away from finding solutions to pressing societal issues and only serve to polarise public opinion.
The campaign Find Another Way, a collaboration between the Center for the Study of Democracy, the communication agency Intelday Solutions, and the Safer Internet Centre, aims to address these challenges. The campaign seeks to build the necessary skills young people need in order to filter through online content and to foster their civic engagement by highlighting positive examples.
The focus of the campaign is to show young audiences that there are alternative ways to obtain information, express one’s opinion and engage with important topics. This requires developing skills to evaluate information, as well as to recognise and resist radical content online. The campaign will feature a series of videos and social media content with local influencers Preyah, Pavel Kolev and Hristo Stefanov, and Stefan Popov, a.k.a. Chefo, who will show positive examples and encourage practical skills for dealing with hate speech and manipulative content online.
Pavel Kolev and Hristo Stefanov (Icaka) are vloggers with nearly one million followers across the social media platforms YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. They share fun skits and challenges, and have also released a number of songs. The vlogger duo will use a variety of creative formats to support the campaign’s communication activities throughout the year. Another popular face, who will appear in the first video of the campaign is the singer Preyah Osasei. Preyah makes modern and intriguing music, and has recently released her debut album. The campaign launch video will also star actor/vlogger Sefan Popov, a.k.a. Chefo. Stefan was the male lead in the movie Bulgarian Rhapsody by director Ivan Nichev – a film selected as the Bulgarian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards in 2014 – he is currently a reporter on the Bulgarian National Television weekend show The Day Begins with Georgi Lubenov.
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