Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Hate-Speech in the Romanian Online Media

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Hate-Speech in the Romanian Online Media

Article excerpt

Acknowledgement: This study was funded by PATRIR (Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania) as part of the Switch OFF/ONline Hate Speech project financed through the SEE grants 2009-2014 within the NGO Fund.

I. An Introduction to Online Hate-Speech

In the international and European socio-political context, with economic migrants, refugees and increasing extremism and xenophobia on the public agenda, hate-speech is becoming an increasingly important topic. Where the fundamental human right to freedom of speech and expression collides with the increasing need for tolerance and mutual respect demanded by life in racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse, multi-cultural societies, hate-speech becomes and important preoccupation for researchers, law-makers, civil society and stake-holders in public mediated communication, irrespective of the communication medium.

The subtopic of online hate-speech is particularly new and important, recently opening up debates on jurisdiction, responsibility, prevention or intervention mechanisms that would not limit individual users' right to free speech.

This research explores new methodologies for automatically identifying and classifying online hate-speech, both on popular social network sites like Facebook, and on web content management system driven dynamic websites like blogs or online news sites. The online medium is generally less regulated and often perceived as a space where there are few or no imposed external limitations. In many contexts - on forums or discussion groups, blogs or their respective comments sections, participants in the act of computer mediated communication may be anonymous or pseudonymous, thus entailing a lower degree of responsibility of the emitter over the message. Digital messages are non-volatile in most cases and public or semi-public asynchronous computer mediated communication environments such as threaded conversations may sustain discussions over indefinite periods of time between a potentially unlimited number of participants or readers. Furthermore, even if the platforms that host these communicational contexts become de facto public spaces, they are still owned by private companies, a fact which raises numerous issues related to intervention, liability and jurisdiction.

From the researcher's point of view, the messages published in such contexts may constitute a resource for the study of the sources, discursive patterns and dynamics of online hate-speech. Such analyses may provide solutions for the management of hate-speech at the level of civil society, government, private companies or public communicators and associated media content managers.

II. Computer Mediated Communication and Online Comments

As the central topic of this article is online discourse, the author will refer mostly to the theoretical framework defined for the study of computer mediated communication, followed by a brief overview of computational linguistics and cooccurrence analysis to ground our methodological approach.

There are two main types of computer mediated communication, as defined in the context of scientific literature on both human computer interaction and computer supported cooperative work (Dix et al. 2004):

* Synchronous: users must be online at the same time to communicate;

* Asynchronous: users may not be online at the same time in order to communicate.

The study of computer mediated communication looks at interactivity in oneto-one and many-to-many communication in contexts created on the Internet by the use of different technologies, tools or platforms: e-mail, chat, Bulletin Board Systems, Multi User Dungeons, Internet Relay Chat, Instant Messaging, Web forums and discussion groups or other spaces for online interaction like the more recent social media.

The main focus of this article is the most common type of asynchronous manyto-many computer mediated communication - comments published in threaded conversations attached to news articles, blog posts or Facebook posts. …

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