Friday 20 September 2019

Online racist hate speech 'pervasive' and 'feeds off fake news', study finds

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Online racist hate speech is "pervasive" in Ireland, an academic study has found.

The experimental research by Dublin City University found a wide range of hate speech, with extreme, vicious and overt racist comments at one end of the scale and a subtler, more masked kind at the other.

Funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the research involved the use of sophisticated machine learning tools to isolate hate speech on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

According to the study, 'Hate Track: Tracking and Monitoring Racist Speech Online', the toxicity of hateful comments is having "a ripple effect" across society. It found racist discourses "feed on fake news and bogus statistics" revolving around the alleged failures of multi-culturalism, no-go Muslim areas, and African youth gangs terrorising locals.

It said there was a clear pattern of shared language between international and Irish groups, including the adoption of the ideologies of far right and white nationalist groups in the US and Europe.

The report said expressions of racism online were being punctuated with misogynist, homophobic and transphobic attacks.

Researchers found that while there was a constant undercurrent of racially toxic comment in circulation at any given time, there were also "trigger events" which gave rise to a high volume of racially toxic content. These included exceptional one-off events, such as the Ibrahim Halawa case.

Launching the report, IHREC chief commissioner Emily Logan called for Ireland to show international leadership in combating online hate speech.

She said existing legislation in this area, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, was not fit for purpose and needed to be modernised.

Irish Independent

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