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no-nazi.net – Activating the Youth through Social Media

The social democratic SPD party decided not to expel Thilo Sarrazin from the party despite his racist theories. Are teenagers interested in this? When looking at social networks, it is obvious that young people of all social backgrounds are interested in politics – and they are just as well interesting for the entire political spectrum. Therefore, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation initiated a new project in April 2011 in order to work together with adolescents fostering the democratic culture of the internet: we bring “no-nazi.net – For Social Networks without Nazis” into being.

The editorial team of www.netz-gegen-nazis.de (Net against the Nazis, initiated by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation) reported about the Sarrazin-news right after the Easter holidays on the 26th of April 2011 at nine o’clock in the morning. By two p. m. 51 school children made comments about the announcement at a social network-based platform of “Netz gegen Nazis” at SchülerVZ (a German social networking site popular among school children). The comments range from “What a mess” to “it is OK, he just presented statistics and said that migrants from the East shouldn’t come to Germany if they don’t obey the laws!!! That is not racist!!!” which was then countered by “But most of these statistics were just invented.” A lively discussion, which both represents the interest in such a socio-politically relevant issue and the lack of knowledge, which is typical for such debates. Such lively discussions follow all of our announcements, which we daily post at SchülerVZ – whether about demonstrations of the extreme right, racist violence, or successful counteraction.

Working for Democracy on the Internet

How can we bring more content into opinion formation? Can internet-based and internet-orientated projects for youngsters foster a democratic culture? Does online involvement stay online – or rather, does it also affect the real world? These questions will be addressed in the next three years by “no-nazi.net – For Social Networks without Nazis”, a new project of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. It is financed by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as a pilot project in the field of right-wing extremism.

Our Experiences

no-nazi.net” is based on the experience which the Amadeu Antonio Foundation gathered through its information sites www.mut-gegen-rechte-gewalt.de (“Stand up against right-wing violence!”, since 2002) and www.netz-gegen-nazis.de (since 2009), and its presence at major social networking sites.

The internet proves to be an excellent medium for the work against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism, fostering a democratic culture, sharing information with a wide public, and connecting German and international projects. In social networks, people present their interests and political preferences like badges on their jackets. The positive experience: a virtual “anti-Nazi badge” belongs to the good manners of many users. Our campaign “Soziale Netzwerke gegen Nazis” (Social Networks against Nazis) reached around 600.000 supporters by October 2010. They organised groups and actively participate in discussions. The campaign, joined by 60 large and small social networks, fulfilled its purpose in drawing attention to the topic of “Nazis in social networks”. Equality and human rights should be the basis of behaviour in the Internet as well – a responsibility of all users.

A Crucial Step Forward: From Attention to Activity

no-nazi.net – For Social Networks without Nazis” takes a step forward: could interest in such topics be transformed into activity? How can young people be encouraged and how can we help them to stand up for their democratic principles? In the next three years the Amadeu Antonio Foundation will seek answers to these questions – through the development of tools and actions in the social media. Survey results show that youngsters spend an average of three hours per day online – and are overtly active in social networks. So we will approach and inspire them in these social networks.

We will develop an educational program for interested adolescents who will be trained as Web 2.0 Peer Leaders. They will be able to give help and advice to their peers concerning right-wing extremism, racism, and anti-Semitism. Furthermore we need to find ways to work with extreme-right orientated teenagers in the Internet, who surprisingly often show up at “Netz gegen Nazis”: they might look for confrontation but, once there, they can also be reached by our arguments.

The pilot project no-nazi.net enters a completely new field in the work against right-wing extremism. We are especially interested in the opinion of our fellows working on such topics. We are glad to hear from educational or social media experts, researchers, internet activists or projects interested in our topic. If you could imagine contributing to our project, please contact us at netz@amadeu-antonio-stiftung.de.

Text by Simone Rafael, translated by Luca Váradi

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