When You See or Hear Hate Speech, Don’t Ignore It

The deadliest attack on the 11 innocent Jewish people at a prayer service at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Parkland shooter who murdered innocent children and their teacher at a school in Florida, the person who sent bombs to high level Dems, and the Monday October 29th school shooter in North Carolina, all had two things in common.  All had mental health issues, and all had a history of posting hateful, incendiary messages on social media platforms laced with misinformation and conspiracy theories.

What can you do, when you see something?  Would anyone have been able to deter these crimes by calling attention to their social media posts or their suspicious actions? Hindsight is twenty-twenty, so how do we get ahead of these deadly criminals. 

The creator of the mail bombs was driving a van plastered with hateful images and carried large duffle bags into work and no one ever stopped him or questioned him. As a good citizen of the world, it's our responsibility to be aware of our surroundings and report when we see suspicious actitivity.

"Be a good citizen of the world. Free speech is not hate speech," said Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch. "Be aware of threats, be alert online and around your physical surroundings, where you work and live and where you visit. As a good citizen, report anything that seems suspicious.  There are opportunities to join local chapters and partnerships with organizations like the Department of Homeland Security, InfraGard and others, or run your own programs. Organizations and businesses can look for homeland security funding on GrantWatch or MWBEzone for grants to increase security and programs to help support their employees, members and participants with training to handle emergency situations and in coping with traumatic events."  

Target hardening is a term used by police officers, those working in security, and the military referring to the strengthening of the security of a building or installation in order to protect it in the event of attack. Follow the link for Homeland & National Security funding to improve security and train staff.

The following grant is currently available to provide funding to assist with support for recovery in communities following violent and traumatic attacks.

Grants to USA LEAs and IHEs to Support School Communities Following Violent and Traumatic Events, ongoing

Grants to USA local education agencies and institutions of higher education to assist the school community in restoring a learning environment following a traumatic or violent event. Schools may request short-term assistance to address an acute need as well as longer-term recovery assistance. 

The organization Share Some Good has some good recommendations about effective ways to respond to and prevent hate speech.  (http://sharesomegood.org/what-can-you-do/) They recommend reporting the inciteful or hate-speech postings to the appropriate channels at that social media company and taking a pro-active stance against hate. If the site administrators determine that the post is considered hate speech, it may be removed. “The more reports they receive of hateful content, the more pressured they feel to remove it." 

FYI: When you are on social media and you “unfriend” or stop “following” a person or group, it gets them out of your sphere of awareness, but it does not alert the authorities of a potential threat. The evidence shows that often anti-social behavior combined with hate related social media posts have been the precursor to gun violence, terror attacks, deadly hate crimes, or shootings.

You can find instructions on how to report hate speech via the step-by-step How to Guides (ohpi.org.au/how-to-guides), offered by the Online Hate Prevention Institute. They can help you find the best way to report hateful posts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google, and directions on online safety and security. OHPI aims to, “get technology companies and governments to recognize and take action against hate speech." The Online Hate Prevention Institute has reporting guides on how to report a Facebook image, page, post or comment, a YouTube video, user, channel, or comment, and a Twitter status (Tweet) or user, or a Google+ post, comment or community page. In addition, they have directions on how to secure your access and your information on Facebook and Google. 

If you see a serious threat, or a post that's inciteful, report it to the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI. 

Homeland Security urges citizens to get involved in their campaigns, “If You See Something, Say Something,”  “Stop. Think. Connect.” and the “Citizen Corps”. “If you see something, say something,” is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement.  “Informed, alert communities play a critical role in keeping our nation safe. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to strengthening hometown security by creating partnerships with state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments and the private sector, as well as the communities they serve,” according to their website.

The "Stop. Think. Connect" Campaign is a national public awareness effort that increases understanding of cyber threats and empowers the American public to be safer and more secure online. It encourages people to view internet safety as a shared responsibility – at home, in the workplace, and in our communities.

The Citizen’s Corp empowers individuals through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds.

They recommend that we all plan so we're ready for disasters, stay informed and even participate in active shooter training
Recognize the Signs

Recognize the Signs of Suspicious Activity.

  • Expressed or implied threat
  • Surveillance
  • Theft/Loss/Diversion
  • Testing or probing of security
  • Aviation Activity
  • Breach/Attempted intrusion
  • Acquisition of expertise
  • Eliciting information
  • Misrepresentation
  • Cyberattack
  • Recruiting/financing
  • Sabotage/Tampering/Vandalism
  • Materials acquisition/Storage
  • Weapons Collection/Storage
  • Sector-Specific incident

 

Be Alert, Be Aware, Report 

Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that could indicate terrorism or terrorism-related crime. This includes, but is not limited to:

·         Unusual items or situations: A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window or door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur.

·         Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc.

·         Observation/surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation – particularly in concealed locations; unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (i.e. with binoculars or a video camera), taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.

Some of these activities could be innocent, but they’re worthy of reporting. Law enforcement can then determine whether the behavior warrants investigation, but they can't do anything to stop it if they don’t know about it. Better be safe than sorry. The above list is not all-inclusive, but those examples have been compiled by Homeland Security based on studies of pre-operational aspects of both successful and thwarted terrorist events over several years. “If You See Something, Say Something” emphasizes behavior and activity rather than personal appearance in identifying what is suspicious.

While due to privacy and freedom of speech laws the FBI does not monitor sites without just cause, individuals and organizations can work with them through InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and members of the private sector. The InfraGard program provides a vehicle for seamless public-private collaboration with government that expedites the timely exchange of information and promotes mutual learning opportunities relevant to the protection of Critical Infrastructure. With thousands of vetted members nationally, InfraGard’s membership includes business executives, entrepreneurs, military and government officials, computer professionals, academia and state and local law enforcement; each dedicated to contributing industry specific insight and advancing national security.

The mission of the InfraGard Program is to foster collaboration and information sharing that enhances our collective ability to address threats to the United States’ critical infrastructure through a robust private-sector/ government partnership.

The over-arching goal of InfraGard is to promote ongoing dialogue and timely communication between members and the FBI. InfraGard members gain access to information enabling them to protect their assets and in turn, give information to the government in order to prevent and address terrorism, cyber threats, and other crimes.

The best way to get social media posts taken down is to report them.

The New York Times addressed this issue Tuesday in an article by Sheera Frenkel, Mike Isaac and Kate Conger, “On Instagram, 11,696 Examples of How Hate Thrives on Social Media.

“Social media companies have created, allowed and enabled extremists to move their message from the margins to the mainstream,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, a nongovernmental organization that combats hate speech. “In the past, they couldn’t find audiences for their poison. Now, with a click or a post or a tweet, they can spread their ideas with a velocity we’ve never seen before.”

Facebook has started “actively reviewing hashtags and content related to these events and removing content that violates our policies,” according to Sarah Pollack, a Facebook spokeswoman. T

YouTube has strict policies prohibiting content that promotes hatred or incites violence and takes down videos that violate those rules, so they are a good partner to report to. They will take your request seriously.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, recently told the New York Times that although the company’s longtime principle was free expression, it was discussing how “safety should come first.”

How to Report Suspicious Activity:

Public safety is everyone’s responsibility. Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or a person of authority in a clear way, describing what you’ve observed including:

Who or what you saw, when you saw it; where you saw it; where it occurred; and why it’s suspicious.

If there’s an emergency, Call 9-1-1. 

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for GrantWatch.

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