Online Hate Speech and How to Counter it

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Despite heightened awareness of the detrimental impact of hate speech on social media platforms on affected communities and public discourse, there is little consensus on approaches to mitigate it. While content moderation—-either by governments or social media companies—-can curb online hostility, such policies may suppress valuable as well as illicit speech and might disperse rather than reduce hate speech. As an alternative strategy, an increasing number of international and non-governmental organizations (I/NGO) are employing counterspeech to confront and reduce online hate speech. Despite their growing popularity, there is scant experimental evidence on the effectiveness and design of counterspeech strategies (in the public domain). Modeling our interventions on current I/NGO practice, we conduct a series of experiments which randomly assign Twitter users who have sent messages containing hate speech to different counter speech treatments. Preliminary results point to the central role of empathy in reducing exclusionary behavior and inform the design of future counterspeech interventions.

Discussant: Arun Frey (Oxford)