Counterspeech is any direct response to hateful or harmful speech which seeks to undermine it. Just as influential speakers can make violence seem acceptable and necessary, they can also favorably influence discourse through counterspeech. The most direct way it can succeed is to have a positive effect on the speaker, convincing him or her to stop speaking dangerously now and in the future. It can also succeed by having an impact on the audience – either by communicating norms that make Dangerous Speech socially unacceptable or by ‘inoculating’ the audience against the speech so they are less easily influenced by it.
There are two types of counterspeech: organized counter-messaging campaigns and spontaneous, organic responses. For more information on the former, see Rachel Brown’s Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech. For the latter, see our Counterspeech on Twitter: A Field Study and Considerations for Successful Counterspeech. All three documents can be found on this page.
Continued study of counterspeech is essential, especially as censorship and takedown proliferate as methods of regulating online speech. Unlike those flawed responses, counterspeech doesn’t impinge on freedom of expression and can be practiced by almost anyone. The other resources collected here are useful sources for better understanding counterspeech, both online and offline.