Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime
76 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017 Last revised: 6 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 30, 2018
This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using Facebook data. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major social media presence. We show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts violent crimes against refugees in municipalities with higher social media usage. To establish causality, we 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 does not hold for sentiment unrelated to refugees; increases with user network interactions; and decreases with distracting news events. Our results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism between online hate speech and real-life violent crime.
Keywords: Social Media, Hate Crime, Minorities, Germany, AfD
JEL Classification: D74, J15, Z10, D72, O35, N32, N34
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