Cyber hate after Jo Cox’s murder and the Brexit vote
posted by: Imran Awan/Irene Zempi | on: Friday, 16 December 2016, 21:43
Our report into cyber hate speech following Jo Cox’s murder and the Brexit vote was split into two parts and published on HOPE not hate’s website on Monday 28 November.
Part 1 covered cyber hate speech on Twitter responding to Jo Cox MP’s death. Part 2 looked at cyber hate responses on Twitter to the Brexit vote in the EU Referendum.
This was a qualitative study* (analysis of a snapshot of views) rather than a quantitative study, which ’number crunches’ data to produce an empirical analysis.
The study was based on a sample of 53,000 tweets. Among the search terms we used to identity tweets were #refugeesnotwelcome; #defendEurope; #whitepower; #MakeBritainwhiteagain; #Stopimmigration; #DeportallMuslims; #Rapefugee and #BanIslam.
Despite the statistics regarding an upsurge in such hate incidents, we wanted to explore a sample from within our overall data set, regarding the language used over social media during this difficult period in the summer.
Our report provides a snapshot of these (qualitative) views, taken from among a selection of sampled tweets during June and July this year. Among the data captured were tweets which may now have been removed or deleted.
‘Deserved to die’
One of the themes we identified in our sample was the claim that Jo Cox had ‘deserved to die’ because she supposedly supported so-called ‘rape gangs’, and had been a ‘traitor’ who ‘got what she deserved’.
As far as the second part of our report highlights, looking at cyber hate responses to Brexit, we pointed out that experiences of xenophobic hostility led to communities feeling a sense of fear, insecurity and vulnerability. We also noted how social media was used to report offline incidents of hate.
Cyber hatred was also linked to an increase in offline incidents, and ‘trigger’ events (reactions to Jo Cox’s murder and the EU Referendum process) seemed connected to a rise in xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia on social media platforms.
The language of hatred online
As we have stated, our study wanted to explore the language of social media users at a crucial time in the summer, when decisions were being made about Brexit and an MP had also lost her life.
We make no apology for the way we studied this type of language and we feel we have clearly demonstrated there are links between offline hate and online hate speech, and the role users play online. We are proud of the fact that we have been able to highlight and shed light on the way in which some users, including the now-banned neo-Nazi group National Action, had celebrated and glorified Jo Cox’s death.
What’s also important to note is that there were many solidarity campaigns in relation to Brexit and Jo Cox (such as #MoreInCommon), but it was not part of our remit to focus upon these. We are confident that upon reading the full report people can examine our findings and understand the points we were making.
Initial media coverage
Some early media reports incorrectly stated that our report claimed there were 50,000 tweets celebrating Jo Cox’s death or praising her killer, sent by 25,000 users. We would like to clarify that our report did not make such a claim.
This claim was linked to one media story, based on an early and erroneous draft of a press release (which was corrected and updated shortly thereafter), sent during discussions with a journalist. A full copy of our report had previously been provided to this journalist.
All media, including this one, were subsequently sent a revised and corrected press release upon the report’s launch the following day. We later contacted the outlet to suggest it alter its original headline.
We recommend everyone to study our published report, to verify for themselves what we have found: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/cyber-hate/
Dr Imran Awan is a Criminologist at Birmingham City University | Dr Irene Zempi is a Criminologist at Nottingham Trent University
*What is qualitative research?
Qualitative research methods are primarily exploratory. The main idea behind qualitative research is helping social scientists gain an understanding of underlying causes and motivations behind specific areas. It’s important to note here that qualitative research methods use a small sample size, to help with more in-depth understanding.
Conversely, quantitative research methods are used to quantify a problem by way of generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into useable statistics. As we have stated throughout our report we have focused on those qualitative interpretations and not numerical data sets. You cannot ‘compare’ the two, as they employ different data collection and data analysis methods.
We used a range of social science-based research methods, including automated monitoring and crawling of social media platforms. Data was coded and exported to provide a select sample of screenshots based on the samples studied. As the report was qualitative in nature, no mention of numbers (apart from among the 53,000 tweets used as a sample size) was discussed.
Drilling down through our sample size, we looked at Twitter users’ direct quotations in order to illustrate the themes emerging from the analysis, and provided evidence for these interpretations.
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