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Online Platforms Fuel Swelling Hate Speech, Crime in US

A strong majority (70%) of U.S. adults believe hate speech and crime have increased in the past five years, according to Barna Group survey results published July 16.

By comparison, 22% say they have stayed the same, 3% believe it has declined and the remaining 5% are unsure.

Black respondents were the most likely to say hate speech / crime has increased (80% did so), compared to 72% of Hispanics and 67% of whites.

The report defined hate speech / crime as “speech or crimes that are motivated by racial, sexual or other prejudice.”

When asked about the causes of the perceived increase, internet- / social media-related reasons were two of the top four responses:

  • “Politicians are encouraging or feeding it” (65%)
  • “Social media and the internet have amplified and encouraged it” (62%)
  • “America is more divided as a country” (61%)
  • “The internet has provided a forum for hate groups to multiply and grow” (57%)

The internet was also the most common location in which respondents encountered hate speech, with 45% saying they observe such expressions on social media.

By comparison, 35% of respondents say news media, 27% political speeches or rallies, 24% on the street and 21% at demonstrations / protests.

White respondents were most likely to say they encounter hate speech on social media (47% said so), compared to 37% of blacks and 41% of Hispanics.

The margin of error for the survey is plus-or-minus 2.8%, and the full report is available here.