'Combat Hate' aims to teach local young people digital media literacy, how to ID hate speech online

Ald. Lopez wants schools in his ward to pilot the Chicago program

Leah Hope Image
Tuesday, May 7, 2024
'Combat Hate' aims to teach local young people digital media literacy
Simon Wiesenthal Center's Combat Hate aims to teach local young people digital media literacy and how to ID hate speech online.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A presentation called "Combat Hate" from the Simon Wiesenthal Center aims to teach local teenagers and other young people digital media literacy, how to identify hate speech online and what to do about it.

"They are seeing hate speech from the moment they wake up. It's everywhere," said Jessica DeLuca, a Combat Hate facilitator.

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During the sessions, the facilitator shows examples of hate speech after warning the participants, teachers and students about what they are going to be exposed to. The reality is most teens see similar things and worse on a regular basis.

"They are the ones dealing with hate speech, regardless if they know it's there or not, so it's important to get the education out there," DeLuca said. "They are also the defense for a more diverse and inclusive future."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has this program in schools in New York, and, starting in December, some Illinois Schools have had this in-classroom training.

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"We can't change what's going on in the world through ignorance; education is the key to everything we need to do," said Alison Pure-Slovin, Midwest region director of the Wiesenthal Center.

Alderman Ray Lopez listened to Tuesday's presentations. He wants schools in his ward to pilot the Chicago program, and he plans to introduce a resolution to bring Combat Hate to all Chicago schools.

"We have a lot of white nationalism and others who are trying to, recruiting through some of the game apps. And it was a real eye opener for me; I was shocked," 15th Ward Ald. Lopez said.

Donors are allowing the Wiesenthal Center to hire a second facilitator to focus on downstate schools. Already, over 1,000 Illinois students have been through the training, which suggests teens report online hate speech by tagging Combat Hate.