The Digital Ethnography of Law: Studying Online Hate Speech Online and Offline

Journal of Legal Anthropology 2019, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp. 1-20

21 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2019

See all articles by Richard Ashby Wilson

Richard Ashby Wilson

University of Connecticut School of Law; Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

Date Written: October 12, 2019

Abstract

The ethnography of social media is still a developing field, and the anthropology of online legal topics is even more incipient. This article charts a digital ethnography of the regulation of hate speech online by examining the infrastructure of social media platforms, the content of speech acts (including coded speech) and their offline effects. These three levels can be analysed using an adapted version of Erving Goffman’s heuristic model of backstage, onstage and offstage presentations of the self in everyday life. A digital ethnography of law implies both a qualitative and quantitative study of offline effects of online speech, including harmful consequences that are direct as well as indirect. On this basis, the article presents findings that, while it is difficult to identify direct effects of online hate speech on violence, show the indirect effects include the silencing of dissent and an undermining of trust and cooperation in wider society.

Keywords: social media, content moderation, hate speech, online hate, ethnography of law, digital ethnography

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Richard Ashby, The Digital Ethnography of Law: Studying Online Hate Speech Online and Offline (October 12, 2019). Journal of Legal Anthropology 2019, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp. 1-20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3465225 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3465225

Richard Ashby Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uconn.edu/faculty/profiles/richard-wilson

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut ( email )

354 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://anthropology.uconn.edu/person/richard-ashby-wilson/

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