Perceived Societal Fear and Cyberhate after the November 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks

Fear is one of the negative outcomes of terrorist attacks. Currently, there is a need to understand how societal fear and fear of terrorism might be shaped and induced by social-media discussions. This study analyzed how exposure to cyberhate was associated with perceived societal fear after the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. Demographically balanced data sets were collected from France, Spain, Finland, Norway, and the United States four weeks after the attacks. Cyberhate exposure was associated with higher perceived societal fear in all countries studied even when adjusting for confounding factors. This was particularly evident in the case of cyberhate related to terrorism. Hateful online communication after disruptive events may contribute to a social climate of fear and escalate societal uncertainty. There are, however, indications that social trust may bolster against perceived societal fear, hence enhancing resilience.

Tags: Cyberhate, Fear, Hate Speech, Social Media