52% of young people ages 14-19 have been exposed to far-right online content

The “Find Another Way” campaign aims to encourage critical thinking and civic engagement among young people

52% of Bulgarian youth ages 14-19 have been exposed to far-right content online, according to a nationwide survey, part of a national campaign called “Find another way”. It aims to encourage critical thinking and civic engagement among young people. About 30% of them came across such content by accident, shows the survey.

The campaign is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs’ Civil Society Empowerment Program and will run through 2020.

“Find Another Way” has been developed to support European Commission policies that aim to guarantee the economic, cultural and social growth of EU countries and are able to develop in a stable, legal and secure environment, as well as in building an open and safer Europe.

The survey was conducted among 1018 respondents ages 14-19 through a personal interview between April and June 2019. The study focuses on a range of attitudes among young people regarding the online content they encounter, as well as influencing factors in shaping their opinion on important public issues. The focus is on the extent to which young people have been exposed to far-right content in the online space encouraging aggression and hatred against certain social groups, and how they would relate to those type of messages.

As part of the campaign, in September and October 2019, five focus groups took place, each with 10 young people ages 14-18 (grades 8-12) and 3 focus groups with teachers of students of that age group in the cities of Plovdiv, Vratsa, Kyustendil, Sofia, as well as members of the Youth Panel at the National Center for Safe Internet.

According to the results, between 12% and 16% of young people approve of online content that demonstrates hatred or aggression. The data shows that passive and uncritical “consumption” of this type of content is related to higher levels of approval among young people for invocation for violence or extreme actions. These messages shift the focus from finding solutions to real societal problems, leading to opposition and polarizing public opinion, without an objective and fact-based discussion.

The “Find Another Way” campaign aims to respond to these modern challenges by demonstrating positive examples and promoting hands-on skills to handle manipulative content online.

Through a series of videos and creative content on social media, presented in an engaging manner for young audiences, as well as through hands-on training with teachers, the campaign aims to develop the necessary skills for young people to evaluate information and recognize far-right content online, as well as their social skills and emotional intelligence so that they can communicate more effectively and fully with each other despite their differences and discuss constructively and reasonably.

A key element of the campaign will be as well to promote youngsters’ civic engagement by showing good examples of engagement. The campaign is executed by the communication agency Intelday Solutions in partnership with the Center for the Study of Democracy and the Applied Research and Communications Fund.