What the online hate-sphere in India can teach us

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Is ‘social media hate’ something technology or tech policy can fix? Prof Banaji discusses violent misinformation and those who forward it.

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Abstract

Historically, mainstream media has been used to embed propaganda and ideological contentions that have led to pogroms, genocide and even the holocaust. As the spread of visual and verbal hate propaganda around Muslims and migrants and the domestication of new technologies is implicated in events such as discriminatory misinformation, lynching, mobs, the acquittal of guilty police murderers, mass shootings and movements against democracy, questions abound about the ways in which social media imaginaries of hate for the “other” form, circulate and proliferate. Is ‘social media hate’ something that technology alone can fix? Is it something that tech policies on acceptable speech can fix? Some scholars are content to assume that a few malign non-state actors are shaping a generally pro-democratic media and social media sphere. Others go further and accuse less digitally literate rural users and profit-oriented platforms of doing most damage. In examining assumptions about the role of platform technologies and media literacy in discrimination and violence targeted at minoritized groups, I will attempt to present a typology of contextually based social media misinformation circulating in India, and use examples from my recent research on cultures of Hindutva fascism to examine the kinds of conclusions that can be drawn about the psychosocial profile and milieu of those who make up, receive and forward violent and hateful misinformation and disinformation on and offline. The talk will close with policy and political suggestions aimed at intervention and prevention.

Bio

Shakuntala Banaji is Professor of Media Culture and Social Change in the department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her current research addresses the intersection between socio-political contexts, media, identities and participation. She has led several large multi-country projects on young people, media, new technologies, schooling and democratic participation. She received one of the WhatsApp Misinformation and Social Science Research Awards for investigating the spread of mediated misinformation amongst publics in India (2018-2020). Her co-edited book Youth Active Citizenship Across Europe: Ethnographies of Participation was out with Palgrave in 2020, and she is co-authoring a new book on Social Media and Hate which is under contract with Routledge for publication in 2022.

Professor Banaji’s LSE web profile:

https://www.lse.ac.uk/media-and-communications/people/academic-staff/shakuntala-banaji


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