Who Are the Online Extremists Among Us? Sociodemographic Characteristics, Social Networking, and Online Experiences of Those Who Produce Online Hate Materials

What are the factors associated with the production of online hate material? Past research has focused on attributes associated with seeing and being targeted by online hate material, but we know surprisingly little about the creators of such material. This study seeks to address this gap in the knowledge, using a random sample of Americans, aged 15–36. Descriptive results indicate that nearly one-fifth of our sample reported producing online material that others would likely interpret as hateful or degrading. We utilize a logistic regression to understand more about these individuals. Results indicate that men are significantly more likely than women to produce online hate material. This fits with the broader pattern of men being more apt to engage in deviant and criminal behaviors, both online and offline. Other results show that the use of particular social networking sites, such as Reddit, Tumblr, and general messaging boards, is positively related to the dissemination of hate material online. Counter to expectations, the use of first-person shooter games actually decreased the likelihood of producing hate material online. This could suggest that violent videogames serve as outlet for aggression, and not a precursor. In addition, we find that individuals who are close to an online community, or spend more time in areas populated by hate, are more inclined to produce hate material. We expected that spending more time online would correlate with the production of hate, but this turned out not to be true. In fact, spending more time online actually reduces the likelihood of doing so. This result could indicate that individuals who spend more time online are focused on a particular set of tasks, as opposed to using the Internet to disseminate hate.

Tags: Hate Speech, Quantitative, Social Media