Rise in hate speech on social media platforms, new EU report finds

The study focused specifically on online hate in social media posts and discovered that women, people of African descent, Jewish and Roma people were most targeted.

ADVERTISEMENT

The European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on Wednesday declared there has been a rise in hate speech on the internet in recent weeks following a newly- released report on online content moderation.

According to FRA, recent updates to EU laws and policies, designed to effectively regulate online content including hate speech, haven’t been implemented fast enough and challenges surrounding the protection of human rights online remain. 

The body analysed 1,500 posts on social media in Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and  Sweden and discovered that women were the main target of hate posts as well as people with African, Roma and Jewish heritage. 

The agency surveyed posts on the social network X, Telegram, YouTube and Reddit.  Analysts did not have access to data on Facebook or Instagram, both owned by Meta Platforms.  

The study collected social media posts over six months, using specific keywords that could indicate potential online hate against these target groups.

FRA concluded that scrutiny and moderation are essential to identify hate speech against women, migrants or religious beliefs that proliferate on the internet.

The report also called for greater transparency by the relevant authorities.

Of the 1,500 posts analysed, more than half were categorised as direct harassment.

Hate messages have been on the rise in recent weeks, especially in pro or anti-Semitic publications following the Hamas militant group’s attack in southern Israel on 7 October and  Israel’s subsequent ground offensive.

X under increased scrutiny

The FRA report also follows recent claims that the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, is spreading misinformation and hate speech after advertisers fled the site over concerns their ads were showing up next to pro-Nazi content.

IBM, NBCUniversal and its parent company Comcast said that they stopped advertising on X after the liberal advocacy group Media Matters said their ads were appearing alongside material praising Nazis.

X has since filed a lawsuit, claiming that Media Matters manipulated algorithms on the platform and said the Washington-based nonprofit made the claims to “drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp.”

X owner, billionaire Elon Musk, is also in hot water after he commented on an account holder’s post that was accusing Jews of hating white people and professing indifference to antisemitism. He tweeted “You have said the actual truth.” He has since faced criticism from the White House and the European Commission.

Musk, who has described himself as a free-speech absolutist, tweeted during his Israel visit on Monday that “actions speak louder than words.”

Meanwhile, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has also said she is quitting X, claiming the network has become a “gigantic global sewer” that is toxic for democracy and constructive debate.

“I refuse to endorse this evil scheme,” she wrote.

“With its thousands of anonymous accounts and its troll farms, life on Twitter is the exact opposite of democratic life,” Hidalgo said in a long post titled, “Why I am leaving Twitter.”

Hidalgo’s office said tweets on Monday in French and English that announced her departure from X would be the Socialist mayor’s last and that she would then close her account – which has 1.5 million followers – at the end of the week.

ADVERTISEMENT

Musk has faced accusations of tolerating antisemitic messages on the platform since purchasing it last year.