Harrowing Facts – Hate Speech and Cyber Violence among Adolescents

Have you ever experienced cyber violence? If not that’s great, but you must have witnessed cyber violence and hate comments on the internet. Teenagers, as one of the main users of online social media, are our focus in cyber violence. Yet the reality is not encouraging. Empirical data shows that children and adolescents are exposed to hate speech more often than they are victims and perpetrators (Kansok-Dusche et al., 2023). Another study, through a representative sample covering 15- to 30-year-olds in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Finland, found that an average of 43% of respondents encountered hate speech online, with social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook being the most common venues for encounters. In addition, Ofcom in the UK found that almost half of UK internet users have seen hateful content online in the past year, with 16- to 34-year-olds most likely to report seeing such content. These figures highlight the prevalence and impact of online hate speech on young people (Matthew et al., 2020).

Hate speech is not just virtual

So, what is hate speech, why should we be concerned about it, and what should the community do to address the wide range of hate speech that young people face?

First, we should clarify the meaning of hate speech from various aspects, which will help us to analyze it more comprehensively and identify countermeasures. Hate speech is derogatory expressions about individuals based on assigned group characteristics such as ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion. These expressions, which can be words, posts, text messages, images, or videos, are characterized by an intention to harm and have the potential to cause harm on multiple levels, including individual, communal, and societal levels (Kansok-Dusche et all., 2023). Additionally, Sinpeng, Martin, Gelber, and Shields (2021) claim that hate speech is a type of speech that can inflict harm equivalent to physical violence, thereby warranting regulation through policies and laws. Hate speech is characterized as public, targeting members of systematically marginalized groups, and requiring some form of “hate speech”. Hate speech is characterized as public, targeting members of systematically marginalized groups, and requiring some form of “authority” on the part of the speaker. It is a form of discrimination that harms its targets through exclusion, legitimizing discrimination against the target group. legitimizing discrimination against the target group and disempowering the target group.

It can be seen that online hate speech can be harmful to individuals and society to varying degrees, and at the societal level, it can lead to discrimination, intolerance, and hateful normalization of attitudes and behaviors. It threatens freedom of expression, as individuals targeted by hate speech may avoid expressing their beliefs and hinder social progress. In addition, cyber hate creates a climate of fear and polarization that threatens the social cohesion threatened by hostility. At the individual level, Victims of online hate speech may experience low self-esteem, sleeping disorders, increased anxiety, feelings of fear and insecurity, and There is a risk of developing social anxiety, leading victims to isolate themselves further. Online hate speech can also lead to a violation of human dignity. There is a risk of developing social anxiety, leading victims to isolate themselves further. Online hate speech can also lead to a violation of human dignity, causing victims to feel lost and socially withdrawn. such as suicidal thoughts or actions (SELMA Partners, 2019). These harms may be more serious in adolescents who are not yet mature in their outlook

Case study: The death of a female teacher in China by “Internet violence”: behind the screen, hiding a group of underage “evil”

“My mum collapsed at home after ending the internet and the killers are still hiding in the vastness of the internet, please help me ……”

From the beginning of October, in Mr. Liu’s online classroom, a group of “evildoers” began to appear constantly. They wore strange avatars, played all kinds of unpleasant and noisy music, and stirred up the whole classroom through voice abuse, personal attacks, and cyber violence. Perhaps Mr. Liu is not familiar with the online class platform, or perhaps there has been a “mole” among the students who shared the link to the meeting, so this group of “evildoers” has repeatedly succeeded, but the situation is not only completely unable to be pacified but also more and more intense. On the evening of the 28th, this group of “evildoers” was even more intensified in the online class. Not only took turns entering the meeting to play ear-splitting music, randomly switching the shared screen, typing out all kinds of inexplicable subtitles, live playing mobile games ……

What was even more outrageous was that this group of shameless people also unleashed a frenzy of verbal abuse on Teacher Liu himself, with almost every single sentence filled with vulgar to the point of being disgusting profanity. Some students just couldn’t stand it and suggested to Mr. Liu that the host position be transferred to them, and they kicked the evildoers out, while this group of lawless bastards even directly abused those students. This protracted verbal abuse, attack, and cyber violence was driving a teacher to death. Later, Ms. Liu emotionally withdrew from that live broadcast, but this walk, surprisingly, became her and the students forever. Ms. Liu is gone, the grief-stricken daughter can no longer hear her mother’s concern and saddened students can no longer look forward to the teacher’s next history class……

Amid sorrow and regret, I believe many people have the same question as I do: Who are the culprits who caused this tragedy? When I checked the relevant reports, I was shocked by the answer I got. This is a group of people who call themselves “online class blasters” on the Internet is a cyber-violence organization, that has been “bad” before. And many of them are still in school or junior high and high school dropouts of minors. The minor’s “network violence” organization, their daily “work”, is topped with electric campaigners’ dream tears, piggy man, star Cai Xukun, Ding names, and avatars, to the various live classroom evil. Screaming, playing dirge, scribbling on the shared screen, constantly verbally abusing or harassing the teacher …… All the most shameless and lowly ways of messing up you can think of, they have done it.

Forcing teachers to die, cyber-violence students, so that senior students can not review, this group of minors, both language and behavior, exudes a strong malicious. The most should be the correct three views of the inculcation of the period, but they will be on the network of all sorts of bad stems and sick values as if it were a guideline; in the most should be hard to study the age, but they have become in the destruction of the classroom order, abusive teachers in the maggot to obtain a distorted sense of achievement; in the most should be a good plan for the life of life, the future of the life of the stage of unlimited possibilities, they are holding the extremely vicious mentality, pulling other people to sink together.

If hate speech and violence in the online community are something we resist, online violence among youth is even more distressing.

What can we do?

Online hate speech is the result of a combination of anonymization and group fragmentation in online communities, and how to minimize the occurrence of online hate speech is a topic that should be considered by individuals, platforms, and governments, especially as it relates to the youth population. Kelly Bates, president of the Interaction Institute for Social Change, said, “We will harm citizens if there are no or limited controls over hate speech, political bullying, body shaming, personal attacks, and the planning of insurrection. personal attacks and the planning of insurrections on social media/online.”

Thankfully, we now have policies in place and some social media platforms have made useful attempts. In late 2017, social media giants under pressure from the German government and the Council of Europe began to introduce hate speech policies. These policies aim to reduce hate speech on online platforms and protect users from harm, especially teenage users. For example, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter have all been required to remove illegal content, and violations could result in social media companies facing fines of up to €50 million (Matthew et al., 2020)

In addition to the existing measures, according to Magdalena and Desiree (2022), we need more feasible protection measures and education programs:

Improving digital media literacy: The article highlights the importance of improving digital media literacy among adolescents to prevent online hate speech victimization. Having good digital media literacy, including understanding appropriate technological safety measures, and reflecting critically on one’s online content, can reduce the risk of youth becoming victims of online hate speech. Based on the study, adolescents and young adults with higher digital media literacy are less likely to engage in hate speech online, and therefore digital literacy is considered a key factor in protecting youth from online hate speech. Digital literacy is therefore recognized as an important factor in protecting youth from online hate speech.

Protecting private information: Educating youth on how to protect their private information and respond appropriately to such incidents. This means informing them about ways to maintain an appropriate level of privacy and security on the Internet, as well as how to handle and respond to hate speech encountered online.

Political Participation and Self-Protection: While political participation by adolescents online is an important cornerstone of the development of mature citizenship in a democratic society, the study argues that there is a need to make adolescents aware of the risks of hostility that they may face and to teach them how to protect themselves.

Social support as a coping mechanism: Social support is seen as an effective mechanism to help young people cope with online hate speech victimization. This includes support from family, friends, and online communities to help victims deal with their emotions and provide the necessary help and guidance.

Responsibility of socio-political actors: the responsibility of socio-political actors, such as platform operators, politicians, and authorities, on this issue. Young people should be helped to cope with online hate speech and to reduce the incidence of such incidents by creating simple and transparent opportunities for help, providing legal assistance, and establishing an effective reporting infrastructure on platforms.

In my view, families and schools should also strengthen the ideological guidance of young people, so that they clearly understand the dangers of cyber violence and set up a red line of morality and law in their minds from an early age.

Society as a whole needs to form a concerted effort to pay attention to the reality of the harm caused by network violence to young people, tighten the reins of network violence so that the boycott of network violence has become a social consensus, so that the perpetrators of violence have nothing to hide, and hope that there will be no more people to fall victim to network violence.


Kansok-Dusche, J., Ballaschk, C., Krause, N., Zeißig, A., Seemann-Herz, L., Wachs, S., & Bilz, L. (2023). A Systematic Review on Hate Speech among Children and Adolescents: Definitions, Prevalence, and Overlap with Related Phenomena. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 24(4), 2598-2615. https://doi.org/10.1177/15248380221108070

Matthew L Williams, Pete Burnap, Amir Javed, Han Liu, Sefa Ozalp, Hate in the Machine: Anti-Black and Anti-Muslim Social Media Posts as Predictors of Offline Racially and Religiously Aggravated Crime, The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 60, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages 93–117, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azz049

SELMA Partners, The Consequences of Online Hate Speech – A Teenager’s Perspective, SELMA HACKING HATE, https://hackinghate.eu/news/the-consequences-of-online-hate-speech-a-teenager-s-perspective/

Sinpeng, A., Martin, F. R., Gelber, K., & Shields, K. (2021). Facebook: Regulating Hate Speech in the Asia Pacific. Facebook Content Policy Research on Social Media Award: Regulating Hate Speech in the Asia Pacific.

Obermaier, M., & Schmuck, D. (2022). Youths as targets: factors of online hate speech victimization among adolescents and young adults. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 27(4), zmac012.

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