Addressing the Challenges and Solutions in Combating Online Hate Speech Through the Lens of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers’ Experience

hate speech and online harms

Figure 1:(NOA,2018)

1. Introduction

The rapid development of the Internet and social media’s popularity have brought communication and exchange between people closer. At the same time, however, the rise of the Internet has been a double-edged sword, as the increasing prevalence of interaction on digital platforms has also spawned a large number of acts of cyberviolence related to hate speech and cyber victimization. The main reason for the emergence of such violence is the anonymity of the Internet, which allows some people who commit cyberviolence against others to think that they can avoid responsibility and consequences and thus attack or abuse others recklessly. In this context, the case of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, a young black actress who became the target of racial abuse on the Internet after announcing her role as Juliet, is particularly noteworthy. Her experience not only highlights the ongoing problem of online hate and attacks but also the need to draw attention to the issue of online violence. This paper will take Amewudah-Rivers’ experience as an entry point to explore the impact of hate speech and cyber harm and reduce cyber violence by finding practical solutions. Only through the efforts of the whole society can we create a harmonious and friendly cyberspace so that the Internet can become a link to connect people rather than a tool to hurt others.

2. The Nature and Impact of Online Hate Speech

The rapid changes in Internet technology have led to a rapid growth in users of various social platforms, and the extension of the Internet world has reached heights never seen before. Parekh states that hate speech is defined as speech that “expresses, encourages, or incites hatred against a group of individuals on the basis of a particular or set of characteristics such as race, gender, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation” (2012, cited in Flew, 2021).When digital communication became widespread, so did aggression in these media, and experts consider cyberbullying to be a form of digital aggression in which harmful behavior is directed at another person. Because online content is easily shared, reposted, republished, etc., even a single malicious digital attack can be viewed by a large audience, harming the victim repeatedly (Cowie & Myers, 2023). Such toxic speech may not only cause damage to the person’s character and reputation but also pose significant risks to their mental and emotional health.

Figure 2:(Benett et al., 2024)

Recently, Francesca Amewudah-Rivers was cast as Juliet in Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet. As soon as the casting was announced, racial abuse was immediately directed at Amewudah-Rivers on the internet. Hate speech is rampant on many online platforms. It manifests itself in many different forms, such as insulting or intimidating, encouraging exclusion, segregation, and calls for violence, as well as spreading harmful stereotypes and false information about a group of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, creed, religion, or political beliefs (Garland et al., 2022). The series of attacks and name-calling that black actresses receive simply because they are given a role in a play that is different from the image in the public mind exemplifies the malicious intent behind the hateful attacks against female black actors. According to EU data, around 80% of women report experiencing hate speech, and 40% claim to have been attacked or threatened on social media. An analysis of racial and racist comments on the CBC News Facebook page shows that hate speech against Indigenous and Black people is spreading (Castaño-Pulgarín et al., 2021). Online hate speech operates on the anonymity and broad reach provided by the internet, allowing publishers to spread their violent rhetoric without immediate consequences. This environment encourages individuals who, under the veil of online anonymity, feel free to express any prejudice and hostility they may be harboring. The barrage of racial slurs and derogatory comments she faced are not only crippling her professional accomplishments but also isolating her from her community and peers; how cruel to an innocent person.

Most women, after being violently assaulted by the internet. On the one hand, describe the experience as emotionally exhausting, leading to feelings of anxiety, sadness, loneliness, vulnerability, fear, terror, distress, and devastation (Unesco, cited in Miranda., 2023). On the other hand, some women have started to look at themselves, delete their social accounts, and need to measure the pictures and videos posted on social platforms for a long time (Miranda, 2023). This series of surveys and studies reveals the prevalence and harmful effects of cyber hate, where cyber violence causes the victim to endure a high level of stress, anxiety, and panic and usually results in the impact and disruption of their offline life as well. Amewudah-Rivers’ experience amplifies these concerns and calls for solutions to be developed between the law, social media platforms to victimize innocent people, and publishers to be punished as they should be.

3. Francesca Amewudah-Rivers and the Solidarity Response

The new version of Romeo and Juliet will run at Duke of York’s Theatre in the U.K. from May 11 to Aug. 3. Romeo is played by Tom Holland, who played Spider-Man in the Marvel movies, and Juliet is played by Amewudah-Rivers, a young black actor. It would have been a celebratory moment, with the classic play featuring a black actress in the lead role for the first time, but the casting call caused an uproar on the internet, which was rife with racial abuse against the actresses. The company has since released a statement in response to the online violence, hoping to stop the bullying and harassment of the actors. After days of festering, over 800 predominantly black women and non-secondary actors, including Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, among other notable black actresses, signed an open letter in solidarity with Amewudah-Rivers for the role of Juliet. This collective act, representing the collective interests of this group, came together to condemn racial abuse and to highlight the lack of broader industry support that Black actresses often receive. The letter is a powerful statement about the normalized harassment suffered by black performers, emphasizing that such abuse should not be a necessary part of the job.

Figure 3: (2023)

Harmful attitudes towards women in the digital environment have led many women to stop posting content that interests them. Some have chosen to leave these social media platforms because they cannot tolerate the constant discriminatory and abusive behavior. In this context, women gradually withdraw from public online spaces altogether. And because these attacks are often targeted, many of those who choose to leave tend to be minority women, such as women of color and Muslim women, making these underrepresented voices and perspectives the first to be marginalized and excluded (Sobieraj, 2020). The open letter itself is a powerful counterattack against online hate speech as well as misogyny in the digital age; it is not just a show of support for Amewudah-Rivers but a voice for black actors to have legitimate rights in the arts and a call for the acting industry to act on the need for protection and affirmation of actors.

Additionally, the Amewudah-Rivers incident has sparked a broader reflection on the responsibility of social media platforms to vet content and protect users. While unity in the acting community is vital, it also emphasizes the need for systemic change to prevent such abuses from occurring in the first place. Preventing more victims from emerging and working to build peaceful, egalitarian, and friendly digital platforms where everyone can boldly present themselves without fear of being subjected to online violence.

Figure 4:(2021)

4. The Challenges of Moderating Online Content

At a time when freedom of expression is upheld, vetting user-posted content by platforms is a huge challenge. The sheer number of users of social media networking platforms nowadays makes it very difficult for the platforms to detect whether the content posted by users is in violation of the law involving language hatred. The fact that global Internet companies such as Facebook and X are widely recognized in the United States as intermediaries rather than publishers of online services undoubtedly gives these platforms some special rights over the content posted by their users. This immunity is granted under Section 230 of the Communications Regulation Act of 1996, which allows these platforms to selectively monitor and remove user content without legal liability.

Despite the ability of these platforms to monitor and intervene in hate speech and attacks, in practice, much content containing hateful and false information has remained on these platforms for a long time. This is not just a technological issue but also a policy and ethical issue involving how to effectively minimize the spread of harmful content without infringing on freedom of speech, which is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed (Sobieraj, 2020).

Although the efficiency of vetting can now be improved with the help of AI because of the rise of AI, it is often difficult to understand subtle differences in human-posted content or racial and cultural differences, which can lead to errors in AI’s judgment of content vetting. Tumblr trained AI to help determine whether user-posted content was adult content and flagged as unsafe for work (NSFW) because the sheer size of Tumblr’s platform made relying on human employees to identify unhealthy content impractical. Deep learning has enabled AI to learn to automatically detect NSFW content; however, despite extensive training, the AI still incorrectly labels harmless content, such as LED jeans and design patents, as NSFW (Dickson, 2019). While AI will help people vet content somewhat, it also has significant limitations and needs to be combined with human labor.

Figure 5:(Batool, 2024)

5. Solutions and Strategies for Combating Online Hate Speech

Enhance content review technology and train more advanced artificial intelligence technology to help platforms accurately flag and identify hate speech. For example, Ziqi Zhang and Lei Luo found that hate speech is usually hidden in the “long tail” of the dataset, which is challenging for AI to recognize due to the lack of unique discriminatory features. However, they came up with a solution to this problem, and based on the results of the data collected from X, they confirmed that their newly designed learning model is more beneficial for AIs to help platforms identify harmful messages. Zhang and Luo believe that improved convolutional neural networks (CNNs) and gated recurrent units (GRUs) can be added to the AI’s data training, allowing the AI to better understand the language and habits of human beings. Habits, as well as some subtle features that can sense hate speech (2019). However, this improvement only shows that AI can help people judge harmful content to a greater extent, but it still needs more data and training to keep improving.

Bromell calls on the government and online platforms to work together to formulate appropriate laws and regulations to reduce the frequency of cyber violence (2022) and improve the harmonious and stable development of the online environment. Platforms should be obligated to monitor and control content release to ensure freedom of expression while protecting users’ and themselves’ legitimate rights and interests from cyber-violence.

Reducing the emergence of online violence should also start from the root by raising users’ awareness of hate speech and its dangers (Keipi et al., 2016). Educational level: Schools and families should incorporate education on Internet literacy into the daily education system and cultivate young people’s ability to use the Internet correctly, express themselves rationally, and think critically. At the social level: Through media publicity and public welfare activities, the public should raise awareness of Internet violence and cultivate healthy Internet communication habits.

6. Conclusion

Through the encounter of the black actress, this blog hopes to arouse the public’s attention and understanding of online violence and hate speech. It gives three suggestions to improve the current online environment in the hope of maximizing a better online environment:

  • The critical role of enhanced content review techniques.
  • The enforcement of strict regulatory frameworks.
  • The need to strengthen digital literacy education.

Cyberspace is a public space, and every Internet user is the defender of this space. Improving network literacy and opposing network violence is a social responsibility and an essential quality every modern citizen should have. Let us work together to build a harmonious, civilized, and healthy network environment where they can contribute their strength.


Bromell, D. (2022). Regulating free speech in a digital age hate, harm and the limits of censorship. Springer International Publishing.

Castaño-Pulgarín, S. A., Suárez-Betancur, N., Vega, L. M., & López, H. M. (2021). Internet, social media and online hate speech. systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 58, 101608.

Cowie, H., & Myers, C.-A. (2023). Cyberbullying and online harms: Preventions and interventions from community to campus. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Dickson, B. (2019, January 21). The challenges of moderating online content with Deep Learning. TNW | Syndication.

Flew, T. (2021). Regulating platforms. Polity.

Garland, J., Ghazi-Zahedi, K., Young, J.-G., Hébert-Dufresne, L., & Galesic, M. (2022). Impact and dynamics of Hate and counter speech online. EPJ Data Science, 11(1).

Keipi, T., Näsi, M., Oksanen, A., & Räsänen, P. (2016). Online hate and harmful content. Taylor & Francis.

Miranda, S. L. (2023). Analyzing hate speech against women on Instagram. Open Information Science, 7(1).

Sobieraj, S. (2020). Credible threat: Attacks against women online and the future of democracy. Oxford University Press.

Zhang, Z., & Luo, L. (2019). Hate speech detection: A solved problem? the challenging case of Long Tail on Twitter. Semantic Web, 10(5), 925–945.

News source:

Photos Reference:

Batool, I. (2024). How to Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying. Retrieved from

Benett, D., Davaine, H., & Getty. (2024). Francesca Amewudah-Rivers was cast as Juliet in a Jamie Lloyd theatre production. Retrieved from

Greta Volpi. (2023). Giornata Internazionale per l’Eliminazione della Violenza Contro le Donne: perché (purtroppo) è ancora necessaria?

National Orientation Agency. (2018). HATE SPEECH IS NOT FREE SPEECH – ABARI. Retrieved from

Stafford, A. (2021). Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for your Business.






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