Conference: Social Processes of Online Hate

Event Date: 

Thursday, May 11, 2023 - 9:00am to 5:45pm

Event Location: 

  • Mosher Alumni House
  • Alumni Hall

The expression of hate—racism, sexism, religious bigotry, xenophobia, and other forms—is widely recognized as one of the biggest problems with social media. On May 11, 2023, UCSB will hold a conference involving leading scholars whose work addresses a “social processes” approach to online hate. The event is sponsored by the Center for Information Technology and Society (Professor Joe Walther), the Arthur N. Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Media (Professor Ronald E. Rice), and the Center for Black Studies Research.

Traditional perspectives on online hate tend to focus on the impacts on victims or the personality traits of senders. Although these approaches offer important contributions, they do not take into consideration the inherently social nature of social media, that is, the nature of social interactions online among those who produce hate messages.
Alternatively, exploring social process perspectives provides a more comprehensive understanding of the production of online hate in social media. A social process perspective assumes that patterns of interactive social behavior reinforce, magnify, or modify the expression of hate online. It also considers the characteristics of social media that facilitate social interactions that promote hate and facilitate relationships among haters.
Social Interactions
A social processes perspective assumes that communicative interaction among haters provides critical mechanisms that motivate, reinforce, perpetuate, or modify online hate. Among its premises are the notion that online hate is socially organized, that is, that it may be planned, managed, enacted, and celebrated by groups of antagonists. It assumes that the production of hate messages has an audience, but it raises the question whether the audience is not necessarily the ostensible victims of online hate messages, but rather, the “virtual community” of haters themselves. It considers that hate is shaped, normalized, and perpetuated through social support that haters provide one another as they antagonize others.
Media Characteristics
A social process perspective of hate in social media also focuses on characteristics of media and the roles they play in the collaborative creation and dispersion of hateful messages. They simplify the ability to find, follow, and “friend” like-minded haters. Their recommendation systems steer individuals into dialogue in hate-oriented echo chambers. Social media provide relatively unique methods and symbolic behaviors that streamline the generation of affirmations and congratulations for one’s fellows’ hostility.
These and other new and provocative approaches to online hate have the potential to change our understanding of its production and its prevalence.
This full-day conference brings together leading experts whose research generates new insights into the social processes of online hate. Each participant will present their work in a half-hour session, followed by Q&A.

Presenters and Titles

Ronald E. Rice (Distinguished Professor of Communication, UC Santa Barbara): “Welcome” 
David Marshall (Executive Vice Chancellor, UC Santa Barbara): “Opening Comments”
1. Joseph B. Walther & Ronald E. Rice (UC Santa Barbara): “Making a Case for a Social Processes Approach to Online Hate”
2. Anton Törnberg (Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden): “From Echo Chambers to Digital Campfires: Constructing Intimate Community of Hate within Stormfront”
3. Walter DeKeseredy (Anna Deane Carlson Chair of Social Sciences; Director, Research Center on Violence; Department of Sociology and Anthropology, West Virginia University): “Digital Violence Against Women in the Incelosphere”
4. Sahana Udupa (Professor of Media Anthropology) and Oeendrila Lahiri (postdoctoral researcher in the online misogyny project, University of Munich [LMU], Germany): “‘Deal’ of the Day: Sex, Porn and Political Hate on a Telegram Channel”
5.  Adam Burston (PhD Candidate in Sociology, UC Santa Barbara): “Digitally Mediated Spillover as a Catalyst of Radicalization: How Tech-Savvy Activists are Radicalizing Conservative Youth Movements from Within”
6.  Stephen Rea (ADL Center) & Jordan Kraemer (Director of Policy and Research, ADL Center for Technology & Society): "Antisemitism across Platforms: Networked Online Hate on the Fringes and in the Mainstream"
7. Gianluca Stringhini (Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University): “Understanding the Phases of Coordinated Online Aggression Attacks”
8. Yotam Shmargad (Associate Professor of Government & Public Policy, University of Arizona), Kevin Coe (University of Utah), Kate Kenski, and Steve Rains (University of Arizona): “Operationalizing Discussion Norms in Large-Scale Social Platform Data”
9. Joe Walther (UC Santa Barbara): "A Social Approval Theory of Online Hate"10
10. Stephanie Tong (Associate Professor, Wayne State University): "Comments on Online Hate"