The rising tide of online hate: consequences for individuals and society

Hänel, L. (2022, January 31). Germany’s battle against online hate speech – DW – 01/31/2022.


  In the digital age, hate speech and online harms have gained urgency and are major problems for people all over the world-individuals, groups, and societies. The emergence of social media and online platforms has expedited the dissemination of hate speech, false information, and detrimental content, resulting in tangible ramifications. According to Terry Flew, “Hate speech has been defined as speech that ‘expresses, encourages, stirs up, or incites hatred against a group of individuals distinguished by a particular feature or set of features such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation (Flew Terry, 2021)” It can appear in several ways, such as threats, disparaging remarks, and calls for violence. The term “online harms” encompasses a wider array of adverse outcomes stemming from online endeavors, such as cyberbullying, harassment, disinformation, and the dissemination of extremist beliefs. Hate speech directed at specific people or groups can be encountered when perusing social media or reading comment sections. Such damaging content has an impact on society as a whole in addition to the people who are directly targeted. In the piece that follows, we will examine the growing problem of hate speech on the internet and examine how it affects both people and communities. We’ll look at specific instances to demonstrate how victims of online harassment suffer psychologically. Taking a broader view, we will talk about how the spread of hate speech fuels polarization, undermines democratic norms, and gives extremism a platform. We can think of ways to lessen the negative effects of online hate if we are aware of how it affects real people. 

Rise of Hate Speech

 The rise of hate speech in the digital age has become a critical issue, with online platforms serving as a breeding ground for it. Scholarly investigations have verified this pattern, emphasizing how the internet’s anonymity and accessibility have made it possible for people and organizations to spread hate speech with never-before-seen ease (Waldron, 2018). Recent research indicates a sharp increase in the amount of hate speech available online. For instance, a 2019 study of more than 3 million tweets revealed a significant rise in the use of homophobic, sexist, and racist epithets since 2016. Although some people may feel more comfortable spreading hate because of their anonymity and distance, the rise is also related to the business strategies of technology companies. Platforms can encourage and magnify extreme and emotionally charged content by optimizing for user engagement and clicks. It has also been demonstrated that increases in hate speech are correlated with the dissemination of false information and conspiracy theories on social media.

Case Study

Jason Burt; Alan Tyers; Uche Amako. (2021, July 11). England lose Euro 2020 final to Italy as Gareth Southgate’s three young subs fail to score in shootout. The Telegraph.

  One recent case study of hate speech on social media is the controversy over online harassment of British football players following the UEFA Euro 2020 final in July 2021. Following the final match between England and Italy, which ended in a penalty shootout, several Black players on the England team received racist abuse on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Players like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka who had missed penalties during the shootout were the targets of the abuse. The public, sports leagues, and political figures all strongly condemned the messages, which contained threats, racial slurs, and other hate speech. The incident brought to light how commonplace racism and hate speech are on social media, especially when it comes to sports and high-profile events. It also brought attention to the difficulties social media companies have in policing hate speech and abusive content on their networks. Following the event, calls were made for more stringent measures to combat hate speech on the internet, such as enhanced community standards enforcement, better moderation procedures, and greater responsibility for abusive users. The incident also spurred discussions about the need for more education and awareness regarding issues of discrimination and inclusivity, as well as the part social media plays in the persistence of racism. Overall, the case study is a sobering reminder of the damaging effects that hate speech can have on people and communities, and it emphasizes the continuous work that is required to fight racism and discrimination in both online and offline settings.

Impacts on Individuals

Hate speech has a significant impact on individuals, affecting their mental health, well-being, and sense of safety. Research by Staub (2005) suggests that exposure to hate speech can lead to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. The sense of safety, security, and self-worth that one has can be seriously harmed by this. According to studies, people who are subjected to hate speech report experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Some people may still be experiencing trauma while the abuse goes unchecked. The hostility of online hate speech can also drive individuals into isolation. Those who have been abused in the past may stop participating in online forums and chats. This hinders their capacity to interact with people, hold conversations, and obtain data and resources. Retracting from public areas also gives hate speech a free rein to proliferate. Some people may be deterred from speaking candidly online by their fear of receiving hate mail and harassment. They don’t say anything to avoid becoming a target. This “chilling effect” inhibits the free flow of ideas and expression. Additionally, it permits the unchecked spread of false information and divisive ideologies. Silencing voices hurts society as a whole. Additionally, hate speech can have physical consequences, when stress and anxiety build up, it can lead to more serious health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and weakened immune system. Therefore, hate speech can have a significant psychological impact on people’s physical health and well-being even though it may not directly result in physical harm.

Impacts on Marginalized Communities and Minority Groups

Reuters. (2023, November 30). LGBT movement, terms it “extremist.”

  Beside individuals, hate speech also has huge negative impact on marginalized communities and minority groups. Minority groups and marginalized communities are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of hate speech and online harassment. Because of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status, or other characteristics, members of these groups frequently experience disproportionately high levels of abuse and threats online. For instance, a lot of hateful messages and threats are regularly reported by well-known women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals on social media and in online forums. These assaults have the potential to cause psychological distress, spread fear, and muffle the voices of marginalized communities. On a social level, hate speech directed at minorities is pervasive and contributes to the normalization of prejudice and discrimination. For some, there are security risks associated with online hate. Speaking out against oppression can put a person at risk for organized harassment campaigns, stalking, and even physical violence. Numerous well-known incidents show how hate speech on the internet can turn into harmful actions when expressed in person. Because hate groups and extremists threaten them with retaliation, marginalized groups frequently feel unsafe expressing themselves freely on internet platforms. In general, the values of justice, equality, and human dignity are undermined by hate speech and online attacks against marginalized and minority groups. They spread the myth that certain groups are less valuable or deserving of less respect than others.

Impacts on Society

  Moreover, online hate speech has a pervasive and detrimental effect on society, fostering an environment of animosity and division and accelerating the spread of discriminatory ideologies. Citron and Norton’s (2011) research demonstrates how people can freely express hate speech online due to the anonymity and accessibility of these platforms, which normalizes harmful beliefs and actions. Hateful ideologies cause division in communities when they proliferate unchecked because they incite intolerance and mistrust of others. The targeting may cause victims to feel more alone and insecure, which would break social cohesiveness. By inciting hatred toward people based on their identity or beliefs, hate speech undermines social trust when it is heard frequently. People are less likely to trust others or fully engage in civic institutions when they feel intimidated or dehumanized. Because of the rifts this causes in relationships and communities, society as a whole suffers. Because they reduce exposure to opposing viewpoints, online echo chambers serve as a fertile ground for the spread of radical ideas. Unchecked hate speech runs the risk of normalizing extremism and encouraging more people to adopt radical beliefs. There is proof that people who interact with radical content online are more likely to become radicalized and possibly turn violent. There are serious risks to public security and safety from this. The spread of hate speech is a factor in the disintegration of common cultural values such as diversity, inclusivity, and human dignity. The values of respect and tolerance between groups can be undermined by the propagation of intolerable ideas. Once established, this cultural gap is hard to bridge and presents long-term problems for social cohesiveness. In conclusion, unrestrained hate speech and online abuses represent serious risks to society because they undermine social cohesion, foster radicalization, and splinter culture. We need to work together to stop the spread of hate and create a more welcoming online community. 

Moderation of Hate Speech

Online hate speech and hate crime – cyberviolence – Cyberviolence.

  To stop hate speech and other harmful online activities from spreading on their platforms, tech companies and social media platforms ought to enact stricter policies and adopt more proactive measures. In accordance with international human rights standards, platforms must create thorough and open policies that define hate speech, harassment, and abusive behavior in detail. These guidelines ought to be implemented uniformly throughout the platform. Put money into moderation To properly identify and review hateful, harassing, and abusive content, platforms need to invest in both human moderators and cutting-edge artificial intelligence tools. Regular and continuous training is necessary for human moderators to recognize and manage such content. According to a study by Lankes and Weißmann (2017), legal frameworks play a crucial role in defining hate speech and establishing guidelines for its regulation. However, the effectiveness of legal measures depends on their enforcement and implementation. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to hate speech moderation requires a careful balance between legal, technological, and social measures. 

Individual Moderation

  As an individual, there are several impactful actions you can take to help reduce the prevalence and effects of hate speech online. First of all, avoid discussing or disseminating hateful content. People who react tend to propagate hateful ideas, images, or messages in an attempt to combat them. But this just makes their impact and reach greater. Rather, report hateful groups, posts, and images to the relevant internet service providers and social media networks. Give particular instances of the content’s violations of their terms of service. Additionally, you should use your own online posts and messages to refute hateful ideologies and advance inclusive values. Distribute content that celebrates kindness, empathy, and diversity. By presenting facts and examples, participate in conversations that constructively refute prejudicial opinions and stereotypes. Act as a “upstander” by speaking out against online harassment and hate speech when you witness it. Your support and voice have the power to change things. Even though it can be discouraging to see the increase in harmful and hateful content on the internet, small efforts to promote inclusivity and fight prejudice can have a significant impact. In order to create a kinder online environment, it is important to speak up, report abuse, encourage empathy, and unite people. Even though the problems appear to be enormous, never undervalue the influence of modest, regular acts taken by people just like you.


  In conclusion, there are serious repercussions for both individuals and society as a whole from the rising tide of hate speech and harassment online. The internet offers unparalleled chances for communication, but it also makes it possible for hate speech and abuse to proliferate. We must carefully consider this complicated matter, striking a balance between the need to uphold human dignity and the principles of free speech. Building mutually respectful and understanding communities is essential to our shared future. We can all lead by example in showing compassion. Despite the obstacles in our way, we can create a society that values diversity rather than diminishes it. We can create an online community that embodies the best qualities of humanity if we have open minds and hearts.


1. Flew, Terry (2021) Hate Speech and Online Abuse. In Regulating Platforms. Cambridge: Polity, pp. 91-96

2. Waldron, J. (2018). The Harm in Hate Speech. Harvard University Press.

3. Staub, E. (2005). The psychology of good and evil: Why children, adults, and groups help and harm others. Cambridge University Press.

4. Citron, D. K., & Norton, H. F. (2011). Intermediaries and hate speech: Fostering digital citizenship for our information age. Boston University Law Review, 91(5), 1435-1467.

5. Lankes, E., & Weißmann, M. (2017). Monitoring and moderation of online hate speech by civil society organizations in Germany: A new field of activity. Policy & Internet, 9(2), 264-288.

6. Hänel, L. (2022, January 31). Germany’s battle against online hate speech – DW – 01/31/2022.

7. Jason Burt; Alan Tyers; Uche Amako. (2021, July 11). England lose Euro 2020 final to Italy as Gareth Southgate’s three young subs fail to score in shootout. The Telegraph. 

8. Reuters. (2023, November 30). LGBT movement, terms it “extremist.†

9. Online hate speech and hate crime – cyberviolence – Cyberviolence.

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