Virtual Lecture – Why Does Online Hate Speech Spread So Fast? The Social Psychological Perspective

Wednesday 27 April 2022, 10:00 am – 11:00 am EDT, online (Washington DC, USA)


Featuring Maciej Bieńkowski, Wiktor Soral, and Michał Bilewicz.

The internet and social media are often blamed for the spread of hate speech. Indeed, empirical evidence across countries supports this view. Individuals see hate speech more often online than in the traditional media, such as TV, radio, or printed newspapers. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that digital users tend to accept hate speech to a higher degree and to be more prejudiced than traditional media users. In this presentation, we present a social psychological perspective on why hate speech spreads so fast online, compared to offline channels of communication. We will explain the role of three factors: First, we propose that hate speech is frequently fueled by the emotion of contempt, which has an empathy buffering function. Second, we suggest that frequent exposure to hate speech leads to desensitization to this form of language and increased prejudice. Third, we postulate that being embedded in only a slightly hateful environment may drastically change the perception of social norms, and increase approval of hateful language. We will present a model that describes how these psychological mechanisms may act in the context of social networks, and how the very structure of the online networks – as compared to the offline networks – may amplify the significance of these psychological mechanisms. We believe that the model presented can be used to understand and possibly counteract the spread of online hate speech.


Find out more information and book your free place here:

Leave a comment


Join the Network

Join the network today to receive the latest news, publications and events straight into your inbox!

Latest from Twitter