Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime

82 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017 Last revised: 20 Feb 2018

Karsten Müller

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School

Carlo Schwarz

University of Warwick

Date Written: February 19, 2018

Abstract

This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using hand-collected data from Facebook. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major social media presence. Using a Bartik-type empirical strategy, we show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts violent crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. To establish causality, we further exploit exogenous variation in major internet and Facebook outages, which fully undo the correlation between social media and hate crime. We further find that the effect decreases with distracting news events; increases with user network interactions; and does not hold for posts unrelated to refugees. Our results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism between online hate speech and real-life incidents.

Keywords: Social Media, Hate Crime, Minorities, Germany, AfD

JEL Classification: D74, J15, Z10, D72, O35, N32, N34

Suggested Citation

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime (February 19, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3082972 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3082972

Karsten Müller

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.karstenmueller.eu

Carlo Schwarz (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.carloschwarz.eu

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