New Report Investigates Increasing Levels of Online Polarisation and its Effects on Hate Speech

VOX-Pol has released its latest report in the VOX-Pol publication series, titled Horizons Of Hate: A Comparative Approach to Social Media Hate Speech, authored by Matti Pohjonen, on 11 September 2018.

About the Report

In the report, Pohjonen employs a comparative approach to social media hate speech. The study compares a Finnish anti-refugee and anti-immigration Facebook group criticised for hate speech and links to the extreme right, with a Finnish anti-racist Facebook group that opposed it, alongside a Facebook group aimed at dialogue between the two.

A critical-comparative analysis of social media hate speech can help us to assess the dangers of this speech, and can provide the necessary conceptual distance needed to come up with new ideas and strategies that can help to prevent violence.

Key Findings

The report finds that perhaps the most dangerous challenge facing Europe is not the explosion of aggressive or hateful content on social media, but the increasing levels of polarisation in society, whereby even the most basic concepts of the debate are not understood in mutually commensurable ways.

Sources of information used to produce meaning about critical issues and debates are drifting apart. The extreme right news ecology online has been able to hijack some of the role previously maintained by the mainstream news media, to provide an alternative and more extreme framing of events and themes to audiences that are already predisposed to react strongly to this kind of information. This political polarisation is perhaps a more intractable problem to solve than merely removing aggressive or hateful comments from Facebook.

About the Author

Dr. Matti Pohjonen is a Lecturer in Global Digital Media at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. For the past ten years, he has developed critical-comparative research approaches for understanding digital cultures globally.

This has included work on international news and blogging in India, mobile technology in East Africa, comparative research on online extremism and hate speech in Ethiopia and Europe, and exploring new methods in “big data” analysis for digital media research.

Matti was VOX-Pol’s 2016 Research Fellow.

Accessing VOX-Pol Reports

All VOX-Pol reports are open-access. This report is available for download HERE. If you would like to receive a hardcopy of the report, please email with your request.

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