Confronting Cyberhate: Old Navy and the Malia Obama Backlash
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Confronting Cyberhate: Old Navy and the Malia Obama Backlash

grades:  Middle School (6-8) 

Lesson Summary:

These resource, designed by the ADL- Anti Defamation League, is highly relevant and significant in terms of events impacting us in today's world. In addition, the content works in concert with many Jewish values which provide a foundation for the way we look at life and the choices we make. In particular, this lesson plan can be paired with learning relating to values including Use Kind Words/Avoid Hurtful Speech and Honor Humanity.

"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."


  • Students will learn what cyberhate is and identify recent examples. 
  • Students will compare and contrast two different responses to recent cases of cyberhate. 
  • Students will take a position and write a persuasive essay about what they think is the best way to respond to cyberhate

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

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