A1 Journal article (refereed)
Formen deutscher und finnischer zivilgesellschaftlicher Gegenredeinitiativen in sozialen Medien
Forms of German and Finnish civil society counterspeech initiatives on social media

Ylönen, S. (2023). Formen deutscher und finnischer zivilgesellschaftlicher Gegenredeinitiativen in sozialen Medien
. Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht, 28(2), 289-311. https://doi.org/10.48694/zif.3819

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsYlönen, Sabine

Journal or seriesZeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht


Publication year2023

Publication date06/10/2023


Issue number2

Pages range289-311

PublisherUniversitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt

Publication countryGermany

Publication languageGermanEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/89634


As the fifth estate, social media creates new opportunities for participation in civil society which are considered to have great potential for democratisation. On the other hand, they also pose risks to democratic societies, as the spread of hate speech and disinformation has shown. As social media rapidly develops, legislation and the expansion of law enforcement resources inevitably lag behind. Moreover, not all hate speech and democracy-threatening discourses are punishable nor do they always contradict the community standards of the platforms. Counterspeech from civil society can improve the tone in the comment sections of social media and help educate readers about scientifically recognised facts. In this contrastive study, I examined whether there are cultural-bound differences in attitudes towards counterspeech. In addition to semi-ethnographic participatory observations from two German and two Finnish counterspeech initiatives, over a thousand of their postings were collected for a systematic analysis of their communicative strategies. Culture-bound differences in attitudes towards counterspeech can be assumed, among other things, due to different motives for the founding of the initiatives (systematically planned vs. spontaneous), their management (hierarchical or heterarchical), and their social esteem (granted or missing awards and media presence). Counterspeech was defined as a reactive or proactive response from civil society to the normalisation of brutalised language and discourses that threaten democracy. This study also demonstrates that counterspeech initiatives can be action-oriented or discussion-oriented. In any case, they offer peer support and collaborative learning opportunities. Humour serves as a valve, and humorous counterspeech initiatives attract followers and members in both countries.

Keywordscivil societysocial mediaattitudescommunicationpublic discussioncultural dependenceGermansFinns

Free keywordscivil society counterspeech initiatives; culture-bound attitudes; action and discussion-oriented counterspeech initiatives

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2023

JUFO rating2

Last updated on 2024-15-05 at 13:23