Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime

This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime. We show that antirefugee sentiment on Facebook predicts crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. To establish causality, we exploit exogenous variation in the timing of major Facebook and internet outages. Consistent with a role for “echo chambers,” we find that right-wing social media posts contain narrower and more loaded content than news reports. Our results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism for violent crimes by enabling the spread of extreme viewpoints.

Tags: echo chambers, Extreme Right, Facebook, hate crime, Social Media