Mon, Jan 21, 2019 - Page 8 News List

The Swedish online love army who take on the trolls

#Jagarhar (#Iamhere) aims to battle abuse in online threads and jumps to defend those on the receiving end

By Makana Eyre and Martin Goillandeau  /  The Guardian, Paris

As the personal attacks mounted, Dennert saw a sharp decline in support.

At the beginning, many companies wanted to collaborate. But that changed.

“The first year, we were so loved and we won all these prizes, and everyone wanted to work with us. But once the attacks started, the people who wanted to collaborate with us, they completely stopped. They were scared.”

Critics call #Jagarhar censorship, but Dennert and the moderators on the group are quick to emphasize that #Jagarhar never comes with an agenda. They don’t tell people what to say. They simply want to defend those who are being attacked online.

Orla Vigso is a professor in the journalism, media and communication department at the University of Gothenburg. He is skeptical that #Jagarhar can actually have an influence on the social media algorithms because trolls and people on the far right are much more prolific and are very organized. He hopes that #Jagarhar is reducing the amount of online hate speech and misinformation people see, but he adds that it is “extremely hard to measure” and it may be wishful thinking on his part.

Roger Wiklander, one of 18 group administrators for #Jagarhar, says that for him the group is about speaking up against hate and misinformation in a united way and giving others the courage to do the same.

One comment really sticks out to Wiklander. On an article encouraging people to donate clothes to refugees, a person wrote “Ha-ha-ha, garbage for trash!”

For him, it’s comments like this one that make him do this sort of work.

Since 2016, the Swedish online love army has spread to other countries in Europe. Sister groups have been created and are now active across the continent, most notably in Germany and Slovakia, whose groups have 45,000 and 6,000 members respectively. The groups largely function independently.

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