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Counterspeech: A tool for students who want to counter online hate

Now, in time for National Bullying Prevention Month 2017, students have solid, research-based guidance for countering online hate, harassment and bullying – in the form of a cartoon!

Counterspeech tips thumbnail

Just a glimpse – click here for the full-size cartoon.

Counterspeech DOs & DON’Ts” is the result of a months-long collaboration of,, #ICANHELP, Project HEAR, The Dangerous Speech Project and some outstanding student advisers in California and Connecticut (it was Chet Ellis, student and award-winning essay writer in Conn., who advised that a cartoon would be much more accessible to his high school peers).

The resource is based on “Considerations for Successful Counterspeech,” by Susan Benesch, Derek Ruths, Kelly P Dillon, Haji Mohammad Saleem and Lucas Wright – cutting edge research in an emerging field. Included are some points from Megan Phelps-Roper’s TED Talk, which tells the story of how counterspeech can change people and lives and, as of this writing, has been viewed more than 4.5 million times.

I first blogged about Dr. Benesch’s work here after hearing her speak at at both Facebook’s 2015 Compassion Research Day and in a smaller multi-cultural meeting at Twitter. Two things compelled me to ask her about collaborating on (then) a counterspeech curriculum for students: 1) seeing research out of the University of New Hampshire showing that most bystanders try to help peers who are being targeted but hearing from educators that they generally don’t know how and 2) knowing that the bullying prevention field had been focusing more and more on turning bystanders into upstanders (some examples in this Google search). I wanted students to have a really accessible “tool” they could use to be the change-makers they want to be. My partners at #ICANHELP had seen and demonstrated over and over again that students are part of the solution to more than the problem of social cruelty online. So I reached out to our collaborators –HeartMob and their very talented designer Kendall Simpson kindly donated their time for breathing life and color into bullet points – as well as friends at the Born This Way Foundation and Teaching Tolerance to get this tool into the hands of as many students as possible.

We hope you’ll join us in using and sharing this tool widely. Happy Bullying Prevention Month!

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