Software created in DCU to track online hate speech

David Kelly

Newresearch being carried out by DCU is creating software that claims to track and monitor hate speech online.

The research, ‘Hate Track – Tracking and Monitoring Hate Speech Online’, uses computational methods to understand what the researchers define as hate speech in an Irish context.

The report, published by Dr Eugenia Siapera, Elena Moreo and Jiang Zhou, classifies a number of speech as ‘racially-loaded contents’, including nationalist discourse and criticisms of minority groups that could be construed as bigoted.

“We define racially-loaded language as ‘toxic’ when it conveys messages that entrench polarisation; reinforce stereotypes; spread myths and disinformation; justify the exclusion, stigmatisation, and inferiorisation of particular groups; and reinforce exclusivist notions of national belonging and identity” the researchers said in their report.

The report refers to numerous types of racism, such as explicit and coded racism. Coded racism is defined as supposedly race-neutral principles like culture, values, ethnicity; and employs seemingly well-reasoned or common-sense arguments.

While racists could seek to code their language, the report defines any nationalist and to an extent, right wing, discourse as racist. Essentially, those who uphold and promote nationalist principles are conceivably racist.

“From our point of view, toxicity does not describe the words and style used to express an argument but refers to the specific content of online expressions and the ideologies shaping them.”

The research continues on to highlight a crude tweet that simultaneously promotes anti-immigration and pro-life sentiments as being a misogynistic attack. However, the post is not explicitly misogynistic, but merely pro-life.

“Thousands of #SoyBoy and #refugeeswelcome cucks bravely battle strong evidence of migrant terror today. Normal service resumes tomorrow with familial bleating about “muh bodily autonomy”. #Dundalk”.

The research criticises discourse that it perceives as being bigoted towards certain minority groups, yet rarely does it examine why these attitudes may be held. Skepticism about the integration of Western and Islamic culture is included in the term ‘Islamophobia’.

The research asserts that groups such as travellers are unfairly discriminated against, with travellers ten times more likely to report discrimination in seeking employment. According to the 2016 census, 80 per cent of travellers within the labour force are unemployed, with 73 per cent either losing or giving up their employment.

The research is being funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Irish Research Council (The Commission).

“Cultural change is possible, and new norms can be established – particularly by those with power and influence. Ireland needs leadership from across society to play a more discernible role in preventing the spread of online intolerance” said Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of “The Commission”.

David Kelly

Image Credit:Rachel Halpin