Anti-Chinese Hate Crime During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(Sandoval & Adkisson, 2021)

The Internet has become an integral part of our lives. From communication to shopping, it has revolutionized the way we interact and conduct business. However, with the growing popularity of social media platforms and the free flow of information, online harassment and hate speech have become a significant issue. This blog post will explore the concept of hate speech and its impact on online communities. It will also discuss the role of governance in regulating online content and protecting vulnerable groups.

The popularity of social media and other online platforms has increased the prevalence of dangerous content, including encouragement to violence and hate speech. Hate speech is a type of communication that denigrates, dehumanizes, or calls for violence against people based on their racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, or national identity. Online content or conduct that hurts a person, a group of people, or society at large is referred to as online harm, on the other hand. These can cause emotional distress, social rejection, and bodily injury. Examples include cyberbullying, revenge porn, terrorism, child sexual exploitation, and misinformation. Additionally, it may encourage an atmosphere of prejudice and intolerance. Researchers and decision-makers must now give this problem their undivided attention (Saha, Chandrasekharan & De Choudhury, 2019). Online hate speech has been addressed in recent years by a number of social media platforms. The efficiency of these efforts, however, is in question, as they have not significantly decreased the prevalence of sexism and hate speech on these platforms. Additionally, in order to effectively monitor hate speech on social media, a new definition of the term must be developed due to its distinct qualities.

Because of the harm it can do, hate speech is seen as a type of communication that needs a governmental response. Although the idea is debatable, it is generally accepted that hate speech is a type of expression that hurts in ways similar to more overt physical injury. Based on the literature review of ‘Facebook: Regulating Hate Speech in the Asia Pacific’ (Sinpeng et al., 2021), offensive racist speech is like a slap in the face, felt as a blow, and once delivered, it lessens the opportunity for debate and, consequently, participation in free speech. Verbal abuse can also traumatise victims, leave them permanently damaged, and build up over time like a poison (p9). Hate speech has been said to have two potential negative effects: causality and composition. Direct harm brought on by hate speech is known as causal harm. Inciting discrete prejudice against members of target groups, adopting discriminatory ideas about these groups, or in severe circumstances, engaging in discrete violence against these target group members are a few examples. Constitutive harm is harm brought on by words. That is, it is thought that communication itself is bad. Members of target groups may be humiliated and persecuted, categorised as inferior or subservient, and discrimination against them may be justified, as examples of constitutive injury. The context in which speech occurs and the rules it reflects and reproduces determine the speaker’s capacity to damage and the target’s susceptibility to harm. The “systemic discrimination approach” that defines hate speech makes it clear that when someone speaks out against marginalised groups, their speech has the power to oppress because it takes place in a social context of hateful systemic discrimination (p9).

People can interact anonymously and exchange ideas in a unique setting made possible by the internet (Véliz, 2019). Because of this anonymity, people can share their thoughts without worrying about being retaliated against in the online community. On social media platforms, hate speech has, however, become more prevalent as a result of this freedom. As a result of its widespread use, hate speech has ingrained itself into the online culture. Online culture is greatly impacted by hate speech. It cultivates an antagonistic atmosphere, prevents constructive discussion, and feeds negative stereotypes. Hate speech can inhibit freedom of expression by making people feel alone, alienated, and insecure. Furthermore, it can cause the spread of false information, which can have detrimental effects including inciting violence and hate crimes. Hate speech can have a very negative effect on online groups. It may result in a poisonous environment where people feel vulnerable and unsafe. Instances of social rejection from online groups or social networks might result from hate speech as well. Feelings of isolation, melancholy, and worry may result from this. Also, hate speech might cause physical harm. It encourages discrimination and violence towards disadvantaged communities. Even more than that, it may have a detrimental effect on mental health, resulting in elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and despair. Hate speech can also foster an atmosphere of intolerance and fear where people are reluctant to express their thoughts and feelings. Generally speaking, the freedom of speech covers hate speech. This security is not impenetrable, though. Hate speech is characterized by the UN as a type of incitement to prejudice, animosity, and violence. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, certain constraints may be placed on the right to free speech, including those that serve to safeguard public and national security, or the freedoms and rights of others.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019, and it quickly spread over the world in the following spring. As the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world, there has been an increase in racial hate crimes, physical assault, and harassment towards Chinese people (Gover, Harper & Langton, 2020). A rise in hate crimes against Asians during the pandemic has been attributed to the COVID-19 epidemic’s escalation of racism, instilling widespread xenophobia, fear of foreigners, and national insecurity. The online hate speech directed at China is like a virus that is quickly spreading over the entire world. China has immediate and extensive Internet access. More people are joining this silent conflict, and an endless stream of incomprehensible words are hurled at the Chinese people through their computers like cannonballs. Through discriminatory speech and exclusive policies, states frequently tacitly support, encourage, and sustain such violence at the institutional level. Donald Trump, a former US president, is the clearest illustration of that.

Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as a “Chinese virus” on March 16, 2020, linking it to individuals in China (Reja, 2021). Online hate speech has been changed and spread by Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric. The prevalence of hate speech against China and anti-hate speech has increased under Trump. Furthermore, there is a connection between false information and hate speech. Hate speech propagators spread false information regarding the role of the Chinese government in the emergence and dissemination of COVID-19 around the time of Trump’s remarks. The post-Trump period, however, has seen an increase in this trend. Though the research on misinformation and hate speech has evolved concurrently, in reality the two are frequently linked. This association can exist as a result of prejudiced individuals using false information to support and defend their hate speech.

(Kim & Kesari, 2021, p8)

The graph compares how close hate speech and anti-hate speech are to the “Chinese virus” and shows how this relationship has evolved over time. When liberal media outlets (like MSNBC and CNN) addressed the Chinese virus in the pre-Trump Twitter era (left), hate-speech speakers attacked those liberal media outlets, while opponents of hate speech criticised those hate-speech speakers for being plainly racist. It is crucial to remember that the “machine” depicted on the left panel here refers to the Chinese propaganda apparatus. Those who engage in hate speech may be aware that the term “Chinese virus” has racial connotations. However, they continue to use the phrase because Chinese propaganda aims to isolate China from the infection. The data demonstrates how Trump’s anti-China tweets have alienated both his supporters and detractors. In the right panel (during the post-Trump tweet era), we can see speakers of hate speech amplifying Trump’s tweets using popular hashtags resembling the Chinese virus, such as #kungflu, #chineseviruscorona, and #ccpvirus (CCP stands for Chinese Communist Party). Although the meaning of these statements is somewhat ambiguous, hashtags like #chinaliedpeopledied provide viewers a more clear message. Hate speech offenders have started to organize around the hashtag #chinaliedpeopledied. Because they believe China must pay for the infection they began and covered up, hate speech authors frequently accuse anti-hate speech writers of being Chinese sympathizers when accusations of racism are made. As you can see, these people think that the Chinese government is only trying to disassociate China from the virus as a means of propaganda.

The United Nations provide some of the recommended approaches to address the hate speech surrounding the pandemic in China have been divided into different stakeholders (UN, 2020). At the highest level, it is important to continue highlighting how important it is for nations that are governed by the principles of law, democracy, and human rights to preserve speech and freedom of expression; denounce any hate speech related to COVID-19, show support for the victims, and stand with those who oppose and question it; In order to assist effective responses, identify, monitor, gather data from, and analyse trends in connected hate speech at the national and international levels; To develop strategies to identify, address, and combat relevant hate speech at the national and international levels in accordance with the UN Strategy and Plan of Action to combat hate speech, bring together relevant actors, including Member States, regional organisations, media and social media platforms, civil society organisations, and faith-based actors. Actualizing a solid emergency communication reaction to guarantee a steady message amid the widespread reaction stage and moderate the effect of emergencies on social cohesion and community strength; Guarantee the standard spread of precise and confirmed data on the widespread, combat abhor discourse, disinformation, deception and scheme speculations through solid open data, bolster straightforwardness, and back the free generation and spread of proficient and exact open intrigued stories approximately the battle and full differing qualities of individuals living with coronavirus illness, And the encounters of bunches most defenseless to coronavirus-related despise discourse, and guarantee that instruction and preparing, particularly in schools, counting through online stages, empowers basic considering, social and enthusiastic aptitudes, and dependable engagement to address related despise discourse, disinformation, and deception (p4).

At the stage level, these tech companies to begin with ought to guarantee that content managing with despise discourse on their platforms is obvious, precise, displayed in a way that’s simple to get it, straightforward and reasonable, and created and connected in agreement with the guidelines of universal human rights law; It incorporates surveying the social and political setting, the status and expectation of speakers, substance and reach, and locks in the communities most influenced by abhor discourse substance to create viable devices to address the hurt done on the stage and maintain a strategic distance from over-reliance on computerization. Moment, screen the spread of COVID-19-related abhor discourse on its stage, in understanding with worldwide human rights law, evaluate the affect of its reaction on users’ human rights, and make this data freely accessible to expel related despise discourse that affects threatening vibe, segregation or viciousness (p5). At last, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, in particular the United Nations (including the World Health Organization), the ministries of health and Education, as well as significant specialists, autonomous fact-checkers, respectful society organizations and influenced communities, Create and advance strategies and exercises to address and combat abhor discourse, disinformation and disinformation related to COVID-19 over its instruction, detailing and preparing stages (p6).

In conclusion, the growing popularity of social media platforms and the free flow of information has led to harassment and hate speech online. Hate speech denigrates or dehumanizes people based on who they are, causing emotional distress, social exclusion and physical harm. Among them, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in racial hate crimes, physical attacks and harassment against Chinese people, triggering widespread xenophobia, xenophobia and national insecurity. Social media platforms have tried to tackle online hate speech, but the effectiveness of those efforts has been called into question. To combat online hate speech, new definitions and regulations are needed to protect vulnerable groups and safeguard public safety, national security or the rights and freedoms of others.


Gover, A. R., Harper, S. B., & Langton, L. (2020). Anti-Asian Hate Crime During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring the Reproduction of Inequality. American journal of criminal justice: AJCJ, 45(4), 647–667.

Kim, J. N., & Kesari, A. (2021). Misinformation and Hate Speech: The Case of Anti-Asian Hate Speech During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Online Trust and Safety, 1(1).

Reja, M. (2021, March 18). Trump’s “Chinese Virus” tweet helped lead to rise in racist anti-Asian Twitter content: Study. ABC News.

Saha, K., Chandrasekharan, E., & De Choudhury, M. (2019). Prevalence and Psychological Effects of Hateful Speech in Online College Communities. Proceedings of the ACM Web Science Conference. ACM Web Science Conference, 2019, 255–264.

Sandoval, C., & Adkisson, T. (2021, April 12). Trump’s First ‘Chinese Virus’ Tweet Preceded Jump In Anti-Asian Speech. Scripps News.

Sinpeng, A., Martin, F. R., Gelber, K., & Shields, K. (2021). Facebook: Regulating Hate Speech in the Asia Pacific. Department of Media and Communications, The University of Sydney.

United Nation. (2020). United Nations Guidance Note on Addressing and Countering COVID-19 related Hate Speech. CC BY.

Véliz C. (2019). Online Masquerade: Redesigning the Internet for Free Speech Through the Use of Pseudonyms. Journal of applied philosophy, 36(4), 643–658.

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