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Seminar on Online Hate Talk – Race and Religion

On 22 July 2019, Dr Steve Kirkwood convened a seminar on Online Hate Talk – Race Religion, at the University of Edinburgh. The seminar is the second in a series of three seminars on online hate talk funded by the British Psychological Society, and it received additional funding from the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Racist, Islamophobic or anti-Semitic talk can be found in online settings, including talk hostile to migrant groups and drawing on far-right tropes, and directed towards religious groups. However, what counts as prejudicial is itself often a topic of debate. This means that identifying cases of online racism can be problematic, which makes tackling this problem particularly difficult. Although discursive social psychological research has been examining racist hate talk for decades, the developing nature and increasing extent of online forms of hate talk raises new challenges for research and theory. Methods from computer science have been developed to analyse online communication, including hate talk, yet this research is not always well connected with psychological research and theory. This event was intended to bring together social psychologists, computer scientists, and other researchers and stakeholders to critically discuss the nature of online hate talk, and how it can be theorised, researched and responded to.

The contributors came from a range of institutions in Scotland and England, crossing the disciplines of social psychology and computer science, and including a speaker representing a non-academic stakeholder organisation. The speakers and their talks included:

•             Dr Steve Kirkwood (The University of Edinburgh): Online hate talk: Approaches from discursive psychology and computer science

•             Dr Simon Goodman (Coventry University): Understanding and challenging online racism and prejudice

•             Dr Shani Burke (Teeside University): “I’m not before but I become racist”: Extreme prejudice as reasoned discourse

•             Dr Cristian Tileaga (Loughborough University): On the intersection of misogyny and antisemitism online

•             Dr Walid Magdy (The University of Edinburgh): What can your social media profile reveal about you? The Power of Data Science

•             Ms Parisa Diba (Teeside University): Online Anti-Muslim Hate Speech in the United Kingdom: Evidence from Project HATEMETER

•             Dr Jeffrey DeMarco (NatCen): Victims’ voices—Experience of police interactions following online hate

•             Mr Fadel Soliman (Bridges Foundation): The origins of hate talk, according to Islam

The were 40 registered participants for the event, most of whom attended on the day. At least 11 of the registered participants were from non-academic institutions, including the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Police Scotland, Community Justice Scotland, Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.

Overall the event met its intended aims by helping the contributors and participants to gain a better understanding of the nature of online hate talk, especially by sharing knowledge across academic disciplines and across academic and non-academic institutions. The learning from this event will feed into planning for the final seminar in the series as well as help with preparing a funding application the ESRC for an empirical research study on online hate talk. The connections made at the seminar will also help facilitate collaboration with non-academic stakeholder organisations.

Anti hate protest photo

Two seniors crossing road