Obermaier, M., Schmuck, D., & Saleem, M. (2023). I’ll be there for you? Effects of Islamophobic online hate speech and counter speech on Muslim in-group bystanders’ intention to intervene. New Media & Society, 25(9), 2339–2358.
Open access: Yes
Notes: In this paper, Obermaier and colleagues focus on the experiences of Muslims around online hate speech and counter-speech. By focusing on Muslims, the authors highlight how hate speech does not exclusively hurt individuals but also communities by targeting harms social identity bonds. To respond to these acts of online hate speech, people engage in counter speech, where they respond by being either harmful or factual. In this context, the authors found that when hate speech was targeted toward their social identity, Muslims often engaged in counter-speech that was predominately factual, thus demonstrating their abilities to de-escalate hate.
Additionally, in this paper, they explore the role of bystanders. Here, they argue that “online hate speech cannot only be understood as an emergency situation that bystanders perceive as more or less threatening (…), but it may also represent a social identity threat for the targets and for all other social media users who categorize themselves in the addressed in-group” (p. 2343). In this context, they found that, even when bystanders from outside their social identity responded, that did not limit the impulse to engage with counter-speech.
Abstract: Online hate speech is very common. This is problematic as degrading social groups can traumatize targets, evoke stress, and depression. Since no reaction of others could suggest the acceptability of hate speech, bystander intervention is essential. However, it is unclear when and how minorities react to hate speech. Drawing from social identity theory and research on in-group intervention, we inquire how Islamophobic online hate speech and counter speech by majority or minority members shape Muslims’ willingness to intervene. Thus, in an online experiment (N = 362), we varied the presence of Islamophobic online hate speech and counter speech by a (non-) Muslim. Results showed that Islamophobic online hate speech led to a perceived religious identity threat which, in turn, increased the personal responsibility to intervene and resulted in higher intentions to utter factual counter speech. In addition, counter speech by both majority and minority members directly reduced Muslims’ intentions to counterargue hatefully.