The Anti-Hate Brigade: How a Group of Thousands Responds Collectively to Online Vitriol

Do you think about what you ought to say, or what you wish others would say when you read the comment fields in social media? Would you dare to share your opinion more frequently if you knew that others in the same thread supported you? Are you already taking action to disrupt those who are spreading hate on the Internet, and do you wish you had the support of others who are doing the same?

These are the words that greet visitors to the Facebook group #jagärhär, a Sweden-based collective of thousands of people who have made a regular practice of responding en masse to what they regard as hateful comments online. Members of #jagärhär (which means “I am here”) seek out hatred in comment threads of newspaper articles posted on Facebook and then respond together, following a strict set of rules which includes keeping a respectful and non-condescending tone and never spreading prejudice or rumors.

#jagärhar is by far the largest and best-organized collective effort to respond directly to hatred online, anywhere in the world, as far as we know. It is also one of only two civil society efforts against hatred online to have been replicated in numerous other countries.  In this detailed account of its efforts– the first qualitative study of such a group – Cathy Buerger shares her findings on how and why #jagärhär members do what they do, how working collectively influences members’ ability and willingness to respond to hatred, and how the group’s strategy is carefully designed to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms and influence ideas and discourse norms among the general public – not necessarily the ones writing the hateful comments.