Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Dynamics of Cyber Hate in Social Media: A Comparative Analysis of Anti-Muslim Movements in the Czech Republic and Germany

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Dynamics of Cyber Hate in Social Media: A Comparative Analysis of Anti-Muslim Movements in the Czech Republic and Germany

Article excerpt


The "refugee crisis" and recent terrorist attacks in Europe are connected with the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-immigration movements around Europe. Online manifestations (Awan, 2014) and offline hate as well as anti-Muslim hate crimes are becoming more frequent (Awan, 2012). In this paper, we focus on cases of cyber hate in Germany and the Czech Republic connected with anti-refugees and anti-immigration protests. The issues of Islam, Muslims and the so-called "refugee crisis" are very topical in both countries and are shaping public discussions; however in many cases the discussions are limited to hateful comments, even including statements that we can already classify as hate crimes. Every new Islamic State (IS, ISIS) terrorist attack or militant activity is instrumentalized by antiMuslim movement supporters to legitimize anti-Muslim attacks (online as well as offline) (Dodd & Williams, 2014).

This paper provides a contribution to the debate about the recognition and measurement of cyber hate in social media based on an explorative case study of antiMuslim movements in the Czech Republic - represented by the Initiative against Islam (former Block against Islam)3 and in Germany - represented by Pegida.4 Though these two countries are in significantly different situations concerning refugees, the movements that oppose immigration have emerged in both countries. These movements use social media as platforms to plan their actions, discuss and link to each other. Based on Intergroup Contact Theory, which will be introduced shortly, the movements against immigrants are expected to differ, as citizens of both selected countries do not have equal opportunities to reduce their prejudices. While in Germany the citizens are often in contact with foreigners due to both the great numbers of refugees which have arrived in the country and to the historically greater migration from Muslim countries, the Czech Republic has significantly fewer.5 To verify our assumption that the extent of prejudices towards migrants differs in both countries, we will take a closer look at the expression of hate speech (in our case cyber hate) that is voiced on the pages of the movements as well as to trigger events and targets of hateful comments.

As mentioned, we base our research on Intergroup Contact Theory. The most influential hypothesis within this theory was developed in 1954 by Gordon Allport, who specified the critical situational conditions for intergroup contact to reduce prejudice (Allport, 1954, cited in Pettigrew, 1998). More specifically, Allport claimed that the positive effects of intergroup contact are based on four conditions. These are equal group status in a situation, common goals, intergroup cooperation and the support of the authorities, law or customs (Allport, 1954, cited in Pettigrew, 1998). Pettigrew (2006, p. 751) looked at over 500 earlier conducted studies in a large-scale study, which in parts had come to conflicting conclusions. Pettigrew's research confirmed that contact between groups helps to reduce prejudice, and that this was neither the result of a publication bias, nor of participant selection (Pettigrew, 2006, p. 766).

Some research (King & Sutton, 2013; Awan & Zempi, 2016) focuses on the problem of hate speech/cyber hate in terms of "trigger events". King and Sutton (2013, p. 888) pointed out that the dynamics of cyber hate is related to recent events and that cyber hate is often the result of events which incite retribution from one group to another. In our study, we try to identify these events through the connection between hate comments on Facebook and their framing, which we will identify via the context in which a statement was made.

In this context, the research questions for our analysis are:

* What percentage of hateful comments can be found on both pages?

* Who is the target of hateful comments?

* Which "trigger events " led to hateful comments on the pages of the movement? …

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