Reconquista Internet: How Jan Böhmermann "accidentally" founded a Civil Rights Movement


Photo Credit: Melina Jana Harzer

Paula Lou Riebschläger for Shifted News

What can we do against hate speech on social media? The German government's answer is called: Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (which translates to the much more mundane sounding "online hate speech act"). The answer of Reconquista Internet is: Love-Trolling.  At re:publica Jan Böhmermann joined anti-hate speech activists Rayk Anders, Patrick Stegemann und Sibel (pseudonym) via video chat to discuss their experiences with right-wing trolls and online hate.

The online collective Reconquista Internet is what countless netizens have just been waiting for. Or so it seems. What unites them is one common goal: to constructively counter the deluge of hate speech on the internet. An increasing number of users have begun commenting on hate posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Co in a bid to boost rational debate. And they are well aware of how important that is also for how public debates on the web are perceived offline. It's unlikely they will get right-wing extremists to rethink their ways. But they do want to send a signal: Hate no longer goes unchallenged.

So far some 44 thousand users have signed up for the Discord server, an online platform where the collective's communications and organization take place. "I never imagined this would become such a big thing," remarks Böhmermann. Demand is so high that the server regularly crashes.

It remains to be seen if Reconquista Internet can sustain the momentum in the long run. But Böhmermann has certainly sparked a new humanist movement, that is not only positioning itself against hate but actively pushes for diversity, love and, reason. In the best of cases, the intensity of this conversation will rub off on offline reality. In this way, what is a "satirical project with no relation to reality" could lead to civic engagement in the real world.