Research for better togetherness on the web


Some heroes fight with swords, others with research and enlightenment. No problem can be solved without first understanding it. The NoHate@WebStyria team has made it its mission to research the phenomenon of hate speech on the Internet and develop strategies for dealing with it.

The project NoHate@WebStyria was initiated by Susanne Sackl-Sharif who lectures at FH JOANNEUM, and Gregor Fischer, who lectures at the Karl-Franzens-University. The execution, like the development, is based on a cooperation between the University of Applied Sciences, the University of Graz and the Anti-Discrimination Agency Styria. The project is led by the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy at the University of Graz. Members of the research institution analyse the content on a legal and political basis. The Web Literacy Lab team at FH JOANNEUM is responsible for developing, conducting and analysing surveys and data collection.

“Hate speech can cause those who are affected or fellow users posting less or stopping to post entirely. This can lead to the diversity of opinions being lost which would create a distorted image on a certain topic.” This is how a project employee explains the possible effects of hate speech on society. In particular, downplaying hate speech, a phenomenon now encountered almost daily on the Internet, is dangerous because it could lead to a permanent change in the way we communicate. “Just because we now see insulting or discriminating remarks very frequently on social media does not mean they are acceptable.”

The logo of the project.
Photo: NoHate@WebStyria
The logo of the project.

The NoHate@WebStyria team uses a variety of methods to explore the phenomenon and create more sensitivity for the issue. Creating and conducting surveys, as well as group discussions in which those affected, and those who read the posts, talk about their experiences with hate postings, enable the researchers to gain a practical understanding of the problem. Content analysis and social media observations provide the factual groundwork to the testimonials.

The goal of the project is to analyse the phenomenon of online hate speech in detail in order to understand it and develop countermeasures that can curb the problem, with a special focus on Styria. Above all, a better understanding and more awareness of hate on the Internet should be achieved, a problem that is becoming increasingly topical in the digitalized society.

Written by Alice Müller and Laura Wiener, students of the Bachelor’s programme “Journalism and Public Relations (PR)”.