Media literacy education that focuses on the responsible use of social media in particular can provide a strong foundation for combating hate speech and extremist ideology, Jordanian experts told Al-Mashareq.
In its Media Freedom 2016 report, issued in late April, the Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) points to hate speech as a growing trend, with social media playing a major role in propagating this type of rhetoric.
According to the report, many social media users believe they cannot be prosecuted for what they post, and this has fueled the spread of hate speech.
Regional conflicts and political divergence also have played a role in the spread of hate speech and the exclusion of minorities, said CDFJ chief executive officer Nidal Mansour.
Mansour called for greater efforts to be made to educate social media users on the optimal use of these sites, noting that "terrorist groups are using them to disseminate their exclusionary ideas that shun the acceptance of others".
Media literacy education
Media literacy education is the key to combating extremism and hate speech, Jordan Media Institute (JMI) dean Basim Tweissi told Al-Mashareq.
"Studies conducted by JMI indicate there has been significant growth in the phenomenon recently," he said. "Unfortunately, hate speech contributes to destabilising society, so it is imperative that it be countered using all available means."
"The absence of media and IT literacy education from school and university curricula has played a major role in raising generations that are unable to differentiate between what is harmful and what is good for society," he said.
JMI has rolled out a programme to raise awareness and begin teaching subjects related to media literacy in Jordanian schools and universities, Tweissi said, adding that this is expected to be expanded by the end of this year.
"Media literacy education is taught in more than 90 countries," he said. "All Arab countries must give serious attention to this issue to raise aware generations that can be protected from extremist and terrorist ideas."
Social media expert and independent trainer Mohammed Abu Ali said it is imperative that more attention be given to this issue, as there are more than five million Facebook accounts in Jordan, as well as other social media.
"Chaos is rampant and unfortunately social networking sites are rife with racist statements," he told Al-Mashareq.
Laws are important, he said, "but what is more important is ethics education, awareness raising and understanding that social networking sites are not a virtual place, but rather a place where everyone can interact".