Shades of hatred online: 4chan duplicate circulation surge during hybrid media events

The 4chan /pol/ platform is a controversial online space on which a surge in hate speech has been observed. While recent research indicates that events may lead to more hate speech, empirical evidence on the phenomenon remains limited. This study analyzes 4chan /pol/ user activity during the mass shootings in Christchurch and Pittsburgh and compares the frequency and nature of user activity prior to these events. We find not only a surge in the use of hate speech and anti-Semitism but also increased circulation of duplicate messages, links, and images and an overall increase in messages from users who self-identify as “white supremacist” or “fascist” primarily voiced from English-speaking IP-based locations: the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. Finally, we show how these hybrid media events share the arena with other prominent events involving different agendas, such as the U.S. midterm elections. The significant increase in duplicates during the hybrid media events in this study is interpreted beyond their memetic logic. This increase can be interpreted through what we refer to as activism of hate. Our findings indicate that there is either a group of dedicated users who are compelled to support the causes for which shooting took place and/or that users use automated means to achieve duplication.

Tags: /pol/, 4chan, content circulation, duplicates, Hate Speech, hybrid media events