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The “Offensive Internet”? Examining Cultures of Hate and Prejudice Online

The “Offensive Internet”? Examining Cultures of Hate and Prejudice Online


This project will examine the cultures of offensive speech online in contexts where norms of civility are weak or contested, and humour and entertainment are promoted. It aims to learn more about how offensive material is created and proliferates in these environments, the actors who produce and disseminate it, and the ways in which it is challenged. Our aim is to expand academic and policy understanding of how offensive speech proliferates online, and the extent to which users are willing to challenge such speech even in the absence of either explicit community standards or terms of service.

We will collect and analyse data from popular online platforms such as Urban Dictionary and Reddit which lack clear community standards or norms regarding offensive speech.

This project will deliver both academic and policy insights. Academically, this project will improve our understanding of the role that platform norms and social dynamics play in encouraging or discouraging offensive speech. From a policy perspective, our research will contribute to debates on the potential value and impact of counter-speech, the value and costs (economic but also social) of moderation, as well as raising challenging questions about the appropriate balance between humour, civility, and censorship.

Key Information

  • Google
  • Project dates:
    December 2017 - August 2018

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