Lesson Plan

Confronting Cyberhate: Old Navy and Malia Obama Backlash

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening

Online hate speech, or cyberhate, is often in the news. There have been two recent news stories which highlight two very different responses to cyberhate. Old Navy aired a commercial that featured an interracial family (African-American and White) that instantly received a great deal of hate speech through emails, tweets and comments. Almost as quickly as this backlash ensued, supporters of the ad responded by posting comments and pictures of their interracial families using the hashtag #LoveWins. During the same time period, Fox News’ online announcement that Malia Obama would be attending Harvard University and taking a “gap year” incited hate speech, so much that Fox decided to dismantle the comments section of their article about it. These news stories point out two very different approaches to cyberhate—shutting down the hate speech (as Fox News did) and allowing the hate speech to remain, with counterspeech posted in response (in the case of the Old Navy ad).

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to explore and learn more about cyberhate using these two recent news stories, and to reflect upon the best way to confront cyberhate.