French Teen Launches Respect Zone to Combat Online Bullying | Not in Our Town

French Teen Launches Respect Zone to Combat Online Bullying

At Not In Our Town, we got very excited when we heard about Respect Zone, a French non-profit dedicated to preventing and stopping cyber-bullying. The idea of creating a worldwide network of people standing up against hate on the Internet is the most innovative idea that we have seen addressing cyber-bullying, and it is perfectly in-line with the NIOT philosophy. People from all over the world are coming together to speak up and stand up to all forms of hate and intolerance--this time across cyberspace. And you can join them.


By Adrien Coen, Paris France Co-founder of Respect Zone

In 2014, when I was 14, I experienced various online bullying issues around me at school. Knowing my friends were suffering from what they read on their phones or on social networks was not right.

Too many teens get hurt online every day, and we are getting nowhere until we find the right educational tools that can speak to my peers without being viewed as policing kids’ communication or harming our freedom of speech, which we all cherish. In order to fight hate online, we need to identify the right tools that “speak the language” of the Internet and that can be integrated into ever-changing social networks.

The need for these tools and resources spurred me to found a small but global nonprofit organization here in France with my brother, a few classmates, and the support of my family. The objective is to offer a kind of “No Smoking” or “Not In Our Town” sign that aims to speak directly to our sense of citizenship as well as awaken kindness. The “Respect Zone” tool attempts to deter hate or bullying speech wherever the label is seen. I know it is idealistic, but encouraging people to become upstanders is a concept that I find worth the effort.

Respect Zone is a grassroots organization devoted to combating cyberviolence, including bullying, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, stigmatism of disability and incitement of hate, violence or terrorism. The way we operate is by raising consciousness about these phenomena and making clear that they are “out-of-bounds” in today’s world.

All those who adhere to this simple premise are invited to post the RespectZone label on their websites, on social networks, and elsewhere.

Launching Respect Zone

We launched Respect Zone during the Paris Games Week (a video game trade fair), held last November in Paris. Youtube star Cyprien, who is the French equivalent of PewDiePie, supported our campaign after I emailed him personally. This local celebrity with nearly 7 million followers in France responded to me in minutes to show support, and he committed to come to see us during the convention. This had a huge impact onto our launch.

In February 2015, on Safer Internet Day, Respect Zone ran a large PR/media campaign, based on its TV film “La Carte” (receiving mention in 19 press articles, 165 online citations stories on 17 television and 10 radio stations).

More recent achievements include the adoption of the Respect Zone label by major companies, schools and universities. We seek to broaden the use of the Respect Zone label as a visible sign of widespread disapproval of cyberviolence. The more the Respect Zone label gets displayed, the more non-violence can be the trend by design online. Being respectful and ethical is not a given, it requires empathy and education.

Respect Zone in the U.S.

In the U.S. we already have a few Respect Zone Ambassadors, including my brother Nathan, who now studies in New York. Together, we met with the U.N., NYU, and a number of great domestic NGOs specialized in efforts against cyberbullying.

With Respect Zone, we hope to promote the following:

  • Adoption of the Respect Zone label in:
    •  a. Schools and Universities — Already a few schools in France have proudly adopted the Respect Zone label and are using it as a self-starter tool for scholars. It’s cool to see a big permanent sign at the gate of a school that reminds students that the school is a Respect Zone.
    • b. Businesses — Today more than 60 companies have elected the label as a way to show empathy for for their employees, their clients, and their community.
    • c. Non-profit organizations — We have set up a Respect Zone Alliance, a hub of non-profit organizations, think tanks and agencies fighting for the same cause: reducing hate and cyber-violence. Some cities are now about to display the label everywhere.
    • d. Individuals — The Respect Zone label is being published by individuals on their social network pages and email signatures. In order to post the label to your own social network page, use our Respect Zone Facebook app. It’s really easy, cool and impactful.
  • Media publicity – Online, on television, in print, on billboards – and wherever an impact can be made.

When you see the label on a social network page like Facebook, a website, or a blog, it means that the editor of the page will refrain from posting violent content and also will monitor the page for any hate or bullying language. This does not mean censorship or filtering, as one can leave the inappropriate content as long as the editor remains critical vis a vis harmful content.

So see what we offer, evaluate our approach, provide us with comments and let’s fight hate online together. We can’t just stand by.

Adrien Coen is junior high school student in France. He is a co-founder of the NGO Respect Zone, which offer a proactive tool to fight cyberbullying. As a hobby, Adrien performs magic shows for kids and their families in a local hospital. Find the Respect Zone charter on their website and join the cause on Facebook.



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