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As posted on Google runs workshops to help UK teenagers tackle hate speech

Google has responded to a barrage of criticism that it must do more to tackle online hate by launching a series of workshops for teenagers on how to tackle hate speech and fake news.

The workshops, called Internet Citizens, will be launched by YouTube, the Google-owned video streaming service, for people aged 16 to 18 in cities across the UK as part of its Creators for Change programme. They are intended to raise awareness around issues such as tolerance, empathy and abuse online.

Last month, the government pulled advertising from Google and YouTube after taxpayer-funded adverts were found to have been placed alongside extremist content on the video site. An influential group of MPs from the home affairs select committee wrote to the company, accusing them of “profiting from hatred” just days after accusing Google, Twitter and Facebook of “commercial prostitution” because of a failure to tackle hate speech on their platforms.

The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, said that despite reassurances during a committee hearing that the companies did not allow hate speech or terrorist content to be monetised, media reports had revealed that was not the case.

YouTube said the Internet Citizens programme would be used to teach skills on how to participate safely and responsibly online, and would include input from prominent YouTubers and youth mentor Efe Ezekiel.

The site’s head of public policy, Naomi Gummer, said: “Nearly all of us will have come across comments or content online that shocked or even offended us, sometimes leaving us feeling isolated or powerless to change the conversation.

“And for young people in particular, this sense of vulnerability can be heightened if it’s difficult to judge whether a piece of content is real, especially when something is shared on social media by a trusted friend. That’s why we’re launching Internet Citizens.”

The curriculum for the programme has been designed by experts from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue as well as charity UK Youth and youth marketing firm Livity, and is part of wider plans to tackle abuse online.

“This is just one part of our commitment to a better web,” Gummer said. “Alongside this, we are exploring more innovative ways to use technology; to partner with experts to help us tackle hate speech online and we are taking a hard look at our policies around offensive content. We’ll share more updates on these areas in the coming weeks.”

UK Youth’s chief executive, Anna Smee, said: “Young people in the UK spend more time online than ever before. In this complex world, there is an urgent need to help young people embrace the positive aspects of connectivity, but we must also support them to manage the negative effects.