Surface and sublevel hate

Munn, L. (2023). Surface and sublevel hate. Big Data & Society, 10(1).


Open access: Yes

Notes: In this article, Munn discusses the stratification of hate on digital platforms, focusing on alternative alt-right social media. He discusses two levels of hate speech. First, there is surface hate: content that is highly visible but uses tempered rhetoric to hide explicit violence (e.g., racial slurs), providing deniability to users who deploy it. Second, sub-level hate: content that is directly harmful but less visible—as it occurs deeper in the informational infrastructure and is characteristically ephemeral. Overall, this paper outlines how users approach strategic practices of harm in ways that optimize recommendation systems while circumventing algorithmic content moderation.

Abstract: On the face of it, contemporary “alt-tech” platforms appear more moderate than legacy hate havens. Yet it’s also clear that virulent hate in the form of misogyny, white supremacy, and xenophobia has not disappeared. Probing this tension, this article conceptualizes two forms of hate: Surface “Hate” (moderate content that is highly visible and easily accessible) and Sublevel Hate (explicit content that is more marginal and less discernible). These terms are illustrated by examining several viral videos on Rumble. This twinned mechanism explains how alt-tech platforms can be both accessible and extreme at the same time. Stratified hate is strategic, heightening the appeal and durability of online communities. Recognizing this dangerous dynamic is key for interventions seeking to counter it.

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