Hate in the Digital Age: Unmasking the Dangerous Viral Spread of Hatred in Society


WOR A wave of anti-LGBT hate is sweeping across formerly safe Western countries – from the UK to Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The amplification of hatred across multiple platforms – from blogs to mainstream media or social media – gives it a global audience. Many of the origins appear to be in America. But is it fair to point the finger, or has social media just given a platform to a problem that has long been present?
A mix of religion, nationalism, technology, commercialization of news and sexual politics has driven this extremism. Dr Justin Ellis – Senior Lecturer in Criminology at The University of Newcastle - has examined the growth of far-right opposition to LGBTIQ expression in Australia and the US in his research titled: Representation, Resistance and the Digiqueer: Fighting for Recognition in Technocratic Times.

Unmasking the Dark Side of Online Platforms

Last month, for several long days, many in the American Jewish community were gripped with fear over a neo-Nazi-organized “National Day of Hate.”
Jewish leaders and law enforcement officials urged community members to be vigilant after a little-known white nationalist group announced plans for a day of antisemitic action on February 25.
But the day approached and went without incident, raising questions over whether, by spotlighting the event, mainstream organizations such as the American Defamation League helped to quash it or gave its organizers undue publicity, something many fringe groups crave.
The prominent anti-hate group ADL says its “advisories and public advocacy” caused some extremists to stay home rather than partake in the antisemitic event.
“This is a success and a win for the Jewish community in keeping our communities safe,” an ADL spokesperson said in a statement to VOA.

The Disturbing Amplification of Hate Speech

But critics say that by magnifying the Day of Hate, advocacy groups, law enforcement and media outlets played into white nationalists’ strategy of cowing their victims and drawing publicity with what often amounts to little more than stunts.
Warnings about the so-called day of hate “made national headlines, became one of the top trending themes on social media in the United States, frightened the Jewish community, and led to a heightened security posture across the country,” researchers at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) wrote in a recent report.
Seed planted on Telegram
The episode began on January 4, when an Iowa-based white nationalist group calling itself “Crew 319” went on the Telegram messaging app to announce plans for a “National Day of Hate” on February 25, urging followers to join in “a day of MASS ANTI-SEMITIC ACTION.”
“Shock the masses with banner drops, stickers, fliers and graffiti,” the post read. “Inaction is unacceptable.”
This wasn’t the first time a neo-Nazi group was pushing a “day of action.” In recent years, “White Lives Matter,” a relatively new network of white supremacists, has popularized “days of action” featuring rallies and propaganda distribution.

The Troubling Amplification of Hate Movements

But Crew 319’s call fell flat. According to extremism researcher Ben Lorber of the social justice think tank Political Research Associates, with just a few hundred followers on Telegram, the group barely registered on anyone’s radar.
“From spending a little bit of time on their online spaces, it was clear that this was a small group with a handful of people at most,” Lorber said in an interview with VOA.
Warnings spread
NCRI researchers studied how the group’s call to action evolved from an obscure post on Telegram into a top trending social media topic.
The clique’s initial post generated roughly 20 likes on Telegram. And when it reposted the announcement a week later, it received even fewer likes — 11.
Moreover, white nationalist groups such as the National Socialist Movement largely ignored the announcement.
“There was no momentum around it,” Lorber said. “It was going to be nothing. But then, the national media instantly turned it into a huge thing.”
The turning point came on February 9, more than a month after Crew 319’s initial post, when the ADL highlighted the planned observance in a series of tweets.
Advising its followers that it had been “monitoring plans for a day of antisemitic action,” the ADL wrote that the proposed “National Day of Hate” had been “endorsed and shared online by various extremist groups.”

About the author

Olivia Wilson

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