New Research 2022: Online Hate and Social Media
A new multi-year research initiative is beginning that will generate new understandings about the proliferation of online hate—racism, misogyny, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitism, attacks on sexual identity, and ad hominem attacks in political discussions—that is so tragically prevalent on social media today. The work is being led by Prof. Joe Walther (Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society), Prof. Sharon Tettegah (Director of the Center for Black Studies Research), and a number of faculty and students in several departments.
Research is currently underway analyzing messages from Twitter, Gab, Parler, and Stormfront, to assess the degree of violence and disparagement, as well as suggestions of replacement theory ideology, in over two thousand social media postings. Analyses will also assess correlations between these message dimensions and the popularity signals (Likes and Hearts) they accrued. Messages were sampled using keywords most frequently associated with hate messages, and focus on hatred toward Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, women, LGBTQ+, Asians, and others. These efforts build on pioneering research by other CITS professors, Elizabeth Belding and William Wang in Computer Science, and their classifications of hate speech online.
Joining the project this Fall as a CITS Visiting Researcher is a Google/YouTube user experience researcher, Dr. Jennifer Pierre. CITS is also planning a symposium on online hate in 2023, involving leading scholars from UCSB, the United States, Asia, and Europe. It will also be the focus of a graduate research seminar in Winter Quarter, 2023.
Ultimate implications of the work include recommendations to social media platforms on moderation of popularity indicators rather than individual offenders, how blocking and account suspension of offenders by social media platforms may promote rather than inhibit subsequent hate messaging, and how intervention messages and strategies are prone to backfire if they are public (“badges of dishonor”) rather than private.