Online Hate Speech Proven to be Dangerous to Minority Groups
Sat, April 10, 2021

Online Hate Speech Proven to be Dangerous to Minority Groups

The representation of minority groups in mainstream media is crucial in ensuring content diversity and representation / Photo by: Rob Marmion via 123RF

 

The representation of minority groups in mainstream media is crucial in ensuring content diversity and representation. However, this is often hindered by the constant struggle of media companies to manage their priorities in a highly competitive market. They need to prioritize reaching advertisers and viewers, which means catering to the needs and interests of the majority. Thus, the voices, interests, and opinions of the minority tend to be neglected and marginalized. 

While some experts recognize the need for democratic societies to not permit the exclusion of any views, they often fail to recognize the fundamental existence of structural inequalities in society. This makes minority groups more vulnerable to physical and verbal attacks. It is important that certain groups are not excluded from participating in or shaping democracy to uphold the values of democracy and equality in society. Marginalized communities that lack access to public platforms and communication channels have no means to influence public opinion or to seek and obtain justice.

However, allowing minority groups to be heard becomes more difficult with the rise of social media and the internet. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent organization, racism, misogyny, and homophobia are further reinforced online. This not only perpetuates problematic views, but also makes people violent. 

Banning Dehumanizing Posts Against Religious Groups

Social media has been a dangerous platform for minorities practicing their views and beliefs. For instance, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become an avenue of harassment and hate against marginalized communities. This harassment then extends to real life.

A recent study conducted by researchers from New York University reported that hate crimes related to race, ethnicity, and national origin have been reported in cities with a higher incidence of racist tweets. The factors taken into account were the different levels of social media usage, varying degrees of population diversity, and cities with a wide range of urbanization. The findings of the study represent one of the largest, most comprehensive analyses of discriminatory social media posts and real-life bias crimes in the US. 

According to Tech Xplore, an online site that covers the latest engineering, electronics, and technology advances, the researchers trained a machine learning model to analyze the location and linguistic features of 532 million tweets published between 2011 and 2016. They categorized the tweets as either those that directly espoused discriminatory views, or described or commented on discriminatory remarks or acts. Lead author Rumi Chunara stated that they discovered that cities that have a higher number of hate crimes have more targeted, discriminatory tweets. 

Social media has been a dangerous platform for minorities practicing their views and beliefs / Photo by: Bartolomiej Pietrzyk via 123RF

 

"This trend across different types of cities (for example, urban, rural, large, and small) confirms the need to more specifically study how different types of discriminatory speech online may contribute to consequences in the physical world,” Chunara said. 

The analysis also showed that most of the hate tweets came from actual Twitter users. However, the team discovered that an average of 8 percent of those tweets that contained discriminatory language was generated by bots. Fortunately, Twitter recently banned hate speech against religious groups. This was after the company asked for suggestions on how to expand its hate speech policies. Facebook and YouTube have a similar policy banning dehumanizing speech or materials that promote "violence or hatred” against people of a different race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, caste or religious affiliation.

However, one thing that is clearly noticeable is that Twitter only banned hate speech to religious groups. This does not include attacks on other groups set apart by gender, race and sexual orientation. Their decision has sparked criticism from civil rights groups. Rashad Robinson, the president of online racial justice group Color of Change, said, "Twitter's failure to ban all forms of dehumanization immediately casts doubt on the company's commitment to fully stopping hate on the platform.” 

More Crimes Against Minorities

The connection between hate speech and violence has already been established. A recent study conducted by academics from Cardiff University's HateLab project demonstrated a consistent link between Twitter hate speech, which targets race and religion, and aggravated offenses that happen offline. The research confirmed the conclusion of previous studies: that hate speech can trigger hate acts. 

The connection between hate speech and violence has already been established / Photo by: Jaromír Chalabala via 123RF

 

According to Phys.org, an internet news portal provides the latest news on science, the researchers analyzed the significant connection between the increase in online hate speech and crimes against minorities in the physical world for over eight months. The results showed that as the number of "hate tweets" against race, ethnicity, or religion increased, so did the number of racially and religiously aggravated crimes, including violence, harassment, and criminal damage. The researchers added that their methods could help police predict and prevent spikes in crimes against minorities through the help of an algorithm. 

Director of HateLab Professor Matthew Williams stated that this study shows that activities in the online world should not be ignored. "The data used in this study were collected at a time before the social media giants introduced strict hate speech policies. But rather than disappear, we would expect hate speech to be displaced to more underground platforms,” he said.