The concept of hejt and hate speech

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, especially the lives of young people. Closure of schools, remote learning, and a greatly reduced social life led the young to spend almost all their time in front of a computer, using the Internet. Increased online activity has greatly increased the possibility of cyber threats, such as hate speech, stalking and cyberbullying.

This article is devoted to the analysis of the phenomenon known as Internet hegemony in the aspect of the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic. Its purpose is to present the scale, causes and consequences of the problem under discussion, with particular emphasis on the impact of the phenomenon on young people.

Cyberbullying is not a new phenomenon. It has accompanied us since the very beginning of the Internet and the emergence of more and more social networks, discussion forums or instant messaging. In recent times, the ubiquity and associated easy access to the network, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, have contributed to the development of the negative phenomenon of Internet hate speech, which has become a serious social problem.

The term hate speech is derived from the English expression hate speech, which, according to the Polish Language Dictionary, means

the totality of statements containing elements that scorn, demean a person or groups of people because of their characteristics, such as gender, skin color, religion, disability[1].

Directly related to the term hate speech is the concept of hejt, which when translated into Polish simply means hatred. As K. Rosińska notes, this phrase in Poland is a colloquial expression, used mainly in Internet slang and in colloquial speech[2]. It is now increasingly accepted that hejt is hate speech occurring in the Internet area[3]. The Polish Language Dictionary defines the term as:

An offensive and usually aggressive online commentary;
Speaking in a hostile and aggressive manner about some subject or person[4].

The hecklers have no scruples. Even human tragedies in life are fodder and objects of attack for them. As an example, we can point to the fatal accident of the son of a well-known presenter or the suicide of a teenager unable to bear the harassment experienced from his schoolmates. In the face of such incidents, instead of words of support, sympathy for the families, there were taunting comments full of vulgarities and hatred, as well as threats and other forms of intimidation[5].

One of the reasons for the existence of Internet hegemony is undoubtedly, anonymity and a sense of impunity online. Users hiding under various nicknames, logins or fake accounts on social networks easily take up topics, make opinions and write comments that they would never publish under their real name. , “Hackers” feel confident because they (mistakenly) believe in their anonymity. Often the hater is so determined to post a negative comment that he or she goes so far as to use a large number of accounts on a particular site or social network, all in order to do as much harm as possible to his or her victim and to avoid being identified in the process.

Heyt can also sometimes be a reaction to boredom, a way to gain attention, a manifestation of jealousy, helplessness or low self-esteem. It can also be described as an attempt to discharge negative emotions at the expense of others and to gain popularity by ridiculing someone[6].

How negative this phenomenon is, everyone probably knows. Hate effectively lowers the stigmatized person’s sense of worth, and sometimes it can also lead to mental health problems. A person who is a victim of heist lives under a great deal of stress. He may suffer from insomnia, neurosis, depression, and even suicide attempts may occur.

Hate among young people – the scale of the phenomenon

The pandemic caused us to spend a significant part of our day in virtual space, which was particularly felt by young people. From one day to the next, they had to face the , “new normal”, studying remotely and giving up their social lives almost entirely. The initial fear for their lives and those of their loved ones turned into uncertainty about their future, their ability to find a job, their personal development. All this resulted in a significant increase in the phenomenon of aggression among young people, which, given the lockdown, was being unwound on the Internet.

Although there is no precise data indicating the impact of the pandemic on the development of Internet hegemony, it can be deduced already from an analysis of press releases or other scientific articles that the scale of the phenomenon is not small. As S. Wojcik of the Give Children Strength Foundation points out – a higher number of calls to the Foundation’s Helpline were recorded during remote education, due to a significant deterioration in the well-being of young people[7]. According to indicators of the Negative Experiences of Youth during the Pandemic (2020) report conducted by the We Give Children Strength Foundation, between April and the end of June 2020, there was a more than twofold increase in the number of people frequently experiencing cyberbullying among both girls and boys (from 2% to 5%)[8].

According to a survey by the SOS Children’s Villages Association, more than half of teenagers have experienced online violence – the most common of which was name-calling (56%). One in five respondents (21%) reacted with indifference, but emotions often included sadness (15%), anger (14%) and fear (11%). Young people also admit that they happen to be perpetrators of cyberbullying. They then use triggers (38%), humiliate and ridicule (22%), and scare others (11%). They also use the impersonation method (6%) or send degrading materials (5%)[9].

Alarmingly, teenagers and children are very often left alone with this problem. As the data shows, almost 35% do not tell anyone about the cyberbullying they experience, and when they do share it with someone, it is more likely to be with peers (24.4%) than with parents or educators (12.2%)[10].

Cyberbullying could also be observed during remote lessons. In the early days of remote learning, when many schools did not have purchased access to applications such as MS Teams or Zoom, they often used free, non-password-protected and non-registration-required instant messaging, which fostered the emergence of a phenomenon known as zoo-bombing, i.e., intrusion into video conferences or video lessons in order to intercept the session and insert material commonly considered inappropriate, with the aim of disrupting the course of the class and provoking a nervous reaction from the teacher. Also, students among themselves in private chats during e-learning have sent each other messages bearing the hallmarks of cyber bullying[11].

How to fight cyberbullying?

The fight against cyberbullying requires a comprehensive approach aimed not only at removing the negative effects of the phenomenon, but also aimed at prevention. As the public discussion aptly notes, detecting and then preventing cyberbullying is much more difficult than in the case of school aggression. In the former case, very often neither parents nor teachers are able to notice in time that a child is a victim of online violence. What’s more, content once shared on the Internet stays there forever. It is very difficult to stop the spread of some offending photo or video of another person, and even more difficult to remove it permanently.

Education undoubtedly plays a key role in the fight against cyberbullying. It is important to make the youngest ones aware that anonymity on the web is a myth, and that heit is a highly reprehensible phenomenon, worthy of condemnation. Children and adolescents must also realize that those who perpetrate heit do not go unpunished and can bear legal responsibility for their behavior. It is also worth explaining to them that online hejt is mostly , “blind aggression”, which should not be taken directly to oneself, and that anyone victimized by bullying should report the matter to parents, guardians and teachers, without fear of any retaliation from peers.

In addition, as I. Dabrowska rightly points out, an area that requires systemic support are solutions related to the publication of comments by Internet users[12]. Therefore, solutions that allow administrators to monitor the forum or community using a given portal or application, as well as equipping them with tools to facilitate a quick response to disturbing behavior are important.

[1] Hate speech, [entry in:] The Great Dictionary of the Polish Language PWN [online] available online: [accessed: 01.11.2021].

[2] K. Rosińska, Zjawisko hejtingu wśród młodzieży oraz sposoby przeciwdziałania, Kultura-Media-Teologia 29/2017, [online] available: [accessed: 01.11.2021].

[3] S. Stasiewicz, Hejt – eternal evil or cultural cancer? [in:] J.Dynkowska, N. Lemann, M. Wróblewski, A. Zatory (eds.) Hejterstwo nowa praktyka kulturowa? Genesis, cases, diagnoses, Wydawnictwo UŁ, Łódź 2017, p. 13.

[4] Hejt, [entry in:] Dictionary of the Polish Language, [online] available: [accessed: 01.11.2021].

[5] S. Skotnicka, The phenomenon of hejt in public discourse, [online] available: [accessed: 01.11.2021].

[6] J. Pietruczuk, Two harmful anger management tactics we use all the time, CloudyMind, after: K. Rosińska, The phenomenon of hejting among young people and ways to counteract it, Culture-Media-Theology 29/2017, [online] Available from: [Accessed: 01.11.2021].

[7] Article available online:,Hejt-w-pandemii-Mowa-nienawisci-dotyka-coraz-mlodszych [accessed: 01.11.2021].

[8] Z. Kozanski, Problems of children and youth during pandemics, social isolation and remote learning, Lodz 2021 [online], Available from Internet:…Z.Kozanski.pdf [Accessed: 01.11.2021].

[9] Article available online: [accessed 01.11.2021].

[10] Ibid.

[11] Article available online:, [accessed: 01.11.2021].

[12] I. Dabrowska, Internet hejt against patients and health care workers in times of SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic in Poland, MEDIA – CULTURE – SOCIAL COMMUNICATION, No. 17(2021), pp. 99-100.

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