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#StopAsianHate Anti-Bullying Week Racism Research

Uncovered: Online Hate Speech in the Covid Era

We looked at 263 million online conversations around hate speech online, to see how it has changed since the start of the pandemic. We looked at social media sites, forums and blogs to see how racism and other topics have evolved between 2019 and mid 2021 – and we’ve put together some key facts from the report for you.

But just to say, before you read on – this blog post contains some stats that some people might find difficult to read. If at any time you feel like you need help, you can get one-to-one support from one of our trained Digital Mentors here.

Why did we do the report?

2020 was not a typical year for any of us, not only because there was a global pandemic and lots of lockdowns, but also because of the rise of racism and hate speech. From the Black Lives matter protests, #stopasianhate, and celebrity comments and attacks about transphobia and homophobia. We thought it was really important to look at what was going on online…

What is Hate Speech?

Hate speech is defined as a “speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group” This can be based on something such a race, sexual orientation, sex or religion.

If someone were to act on those words, that would be defined as a hate crime.

hands, computer, typing, keyboard, laptop

What did we learn?

  • Between 2019 and mid-2021 – On average there was a new post about race or ethnicity-based hate speech every 1.7 seconds.
  • The beginning of the pandemic spurred ethnicity-based hate speech as anti-Asian hate became significantly more common and widespread.
  • There was a 28% increase in ethnicity based and racist hate speech in the UK and US.
  • Since the start of the pandemic discussions online of violent threats in the UK increased by 10%. This increase matched with big events, like the Black Lives Matter protests in summer of 2020 and the violent attacks against people in Asian communities.
  • Anti-Asian hate speech increased by 1662% in 2020 compared to 2019. This shows how quickly hate speech can grow. 
  • Hate speech about gender or gender identity has increased by 14% since the start of the pandemic. 
  • Homophobia made up 85% of conversations relating to hate speech about sexual orientation.
  • Discussions about violent threats online saw a 22% increase following the start of the pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. 
  • In the UK, the peak for hate speech discussions and examples of hate speech online occurred prior to the peak for incidents of hate crimes. This suggests the potentially dangerous impact that online hate speech can have on ‘real world’ violent attacks.  

For more, you can download the full report here.

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