The deteriorating tone of conversation on the internet has the advisors very worried. That’s why the Telekom helps team is launching a themed week today, focusing on sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism on the web. Like Deutsche Telekom’s #takepart campaign No hate speech, real victims are once again at the center. An interview with Markus Lukowski, community manager at Telekom helps.
Questions about Wi-Fi, network problems, products, or services: the Telekom helps (“Telekom hilft”) team is the daily contact point for people like you and me, helping with quick information and helpful tips. Even in tricky situations, where customers are especially annoyed and upset. Unfortunately, the advisors on the team increasingly face open hostility and hate speech themselves.
Online hate concerns us all. The Telekom helps team frequently has to deal with hateful comments. Why do you think that’s the case? After all, your team just wants to do good and help others with problems on the internet, right?
That’s our goal, no question there. But we’re also aware that we tend to end up with the cases where something hasn’t quite worked out right in the first place. If you've ever experienced something like that, you know that it can be pretty frustrating. That’s why it’s perfectly natural to get a little emotional when making a complaint. But things get more difficult when users forget their manners and get insulting, or even make threats.
What are some typical comments that you're forced to listen to?
I think everyone can imagine the things we hear. But “listen” is a good catchword. We had one user who sent us a voice message over Facebook. In just 15 seconds, he managed to include just about every bad thing you can imagine – from insults to death threats. And the things he didn’t manage to include in the voice message, he wrote down. So there’s quite a bit that we have to deal with all day long, and I haven’t even mentioned the pictures of body parts yet 🍆.
What affect does that have on you all and how do you deal with it?
That’s difficult to generalize, because everyone handles it differently, of course. But it’s safe to say that it isn’t pleasant to have to read such things, nor is it conducive to solving the issue at hand. No matter how tough you are, things like that probably still leave a mark. In most cases, it helps to talk to colleagues. When it comes to specifics, our team members are instructed to issue warnings to users and, if they don’t stop, ban them. Aside from that, every advisor is free to pursue legal remedies, of course. But that’s surely the exception. All the same, it’s important to remember that the internet doesn't exist in a legal vacuum. We hope to sensitize people to this, which is why we’ve launched our themed week “No hate speech”.
What kinds of things do you have planned for the themed week? And what do you hope to achieve?
We’ve developed four different motifs that tackle different topics. We use ourselves as examples. But we’re also concerned about hate speech on all social media. That’s why we have two main goals: First of all, people should always be aware that other people have to read these comments and live with them. Secondly, we want to encourage our users to take an active stand against online hate. The psychological threshold for typing online insults isn’t particularly high. But at the same time, making a calming comment isn’t something that takes a lot of effort, either. That’s exactly why we have organized this themed week, to support Deutsche Telekom’s commitment to #takepart – no hate speech, which involves a lot of partners and different measures. And with the same motto: words must not become a weapon. And we have to get shaken out of our complacency!
How and where can we follow your themed week?
This week, we will be publishing one motif about one of our four topics every day, on our Facebook account and Twitter feed. We hope they will give rise to lively discussions in the comments sections and we will, of course, be joining in the debate. We are grateful for everyone who makes a constructive contribution. The finale on Friday will be a little different, but I don’t want to give away too much, so we can maintain at least a little suspense …