The growth and impact of hate speech – how should we control it?

Have you ever made offensive or discriminatory remarks against others on social media or public platforms? Have you ever been a keyboard man on the internet?


In the age of digitization, social media have become the main platform for people to express their opinions and exchange ideas. However, these platforms have also become a breeding ground for hate speech, the speed and reach of which makes it difficult to know how to respond to this phenomenon. In the anonymity and free atmosphere of social platforms, some speech has evolved into uncomfortable attacks, sometimes even racially or personally abusive. This phenomenon not only affects the daily lives of the victims, but to exaggerate, even poses a threat to social harmony. Let’s take a look at two specific cases to analyse how hate speech develops and how we can take action to reduce it.

Case Study

Adam Goodes incident

Adam Goodes, an Indigenous Australian rugby player, is known for his excellence on the rugby field and his active advocacy for Indigenous rights in Australia. However, in 2013, he was the target of racial abuse during an Australian Football League (AFL) match.

During the game, Goodes was verbally abused with racial slurs by a 13-year-old spectator. Goodes immediately pointed out the spectator, causing her to be removed by security. The incident was caught on camera at the game and quickly generated widespread discussion on social media and media coverage. Goodes’ response sparked a national dialogue on racial discrimination, particularly in relation to the inequality and prejudice faced by Indigenous Australians in society.

The Adam Goodes incident has caused an intense public backlash on social media. In the aftermath of the incident, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were flooded with voices of support for Goodes and discussions against racial discrimination. Many users used the opportunity to show their support for racial equality by launching hashtag campaigns, such as #IStandWithGoodes, to publicly support Goodes and condemn racial discrimination.

However, the discussion also exposed the dark side of social media. Some users hid behind anonymity and posted malicious and racist comments against Goodes. This negative backlash not only added to Goodes’ psychological burden, but also showed the challenges social media platforms have in policing harmful content.

Social media companies have come under pressure in the wake of the incident to improve their content monitoring systems to identify and limit hate speech. For example, Facebook and Twitter have begun using a combination of more advanced algorithms and human review to try to identify and deal with content involving racial discrimination more quickly. These platforms have also strengthened their communication with users, encouraging them to report hate speech and providing clearer guidelines to define what constitutes hate speech.

This incident reminds us that it is not enough to rely solely on technological means to address the problem of hate speech. Public awareness of racial discrimination needs to be raised through education and public policy. The Australian Rugby Union and other sporting organisations have begun to promote more training programs on multiculturalism and racial sensitivity to educate athletes and spectators on how to identify and counter racial discrimination.

The Adam Goodes incident served as an opportunity for a national dialogue that led to a deeper reflection in the Australian community on attitudes and treatment of indigenous peoples. This reflection was not limited to the sporting arena, but also extended to the fields of education, politics and the media. Many organisations and individuals have begun to reassess their own behaviour and policies to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again.

Through an in-depth analysis of the Adam Goodes incident, we see the complex role that social media plays in modern society: both as a platform for the dissemination of information and expressions of support, but also as a potential breeding ground for hatred and prejudice. This incident highlights the need for all sectors of society – including social media platforms, governments, educational institutions and ordinary citizens – to work together to counter racial discrimination and hate speech through education, legislation and cultural reform. Such concerted efforts will not only help us to build a more inclusive and understanding society, but also serve as an important preparation for similar challenges in the future.

Incidents of discrimination against England players

The match between England and Italy in the Euro 2021 final was eventually decided through a penalty shootout. England players Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were all three unsuccessful in scoring penalties, leading to England’s eventual defeat. After the match, the three players were subjected to numerous racist attacks on social media.

The social media accounts of the three players were quickly flooded with racist insults and malicious comments. The comments, mostly from anonymous accounts, included racial insults, threats and even violent remarks. A mural in Manchester, England, depicting Rashford and praising his charity work was defaced by police with “racist” graffiti. The incident aroused widespread concern and strong reactions from the football community and all sectors of society.

England players have long faced racial discrimination and many have spoken out about the issue in recent years, including Rashford. This year, Rashford called the racism he has received from soccer fans “human nature and social media at its worst.”

“Hate is a strong word. But racists rely on black British players to bring them glory as if they were their servants, and when they fail to live up to their dreams, they turn on them, and I despise that,” British soccer writer Musa Okwonga tweeted after the game when the harassment began.

Many footballers, celebrities and politicians have publicly come out in support of the three players, including the official accounts of the English Football Association and clubs. They have used their influence to call out against racial discrimination and promote positive discussions.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William condemned the racist harassment of black players by the England national football team following their loss in the Euro 2020 championship on Sunday. Prince William, who is chairman of the English Football Association, tweeted that he was “disgusted by the racist behaviour” against the three black players. He said, “This behaviour must stop immediately and all involved should be held accountable.”

In the face of public pressure, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have stepped up their efforts to monitor and combat hate speech. They have begun censoring content suspected of racial discrimination and have blocked multiple offending accounts. In addition, these platforms are seeking to improve their algorithms to reduce the spread of hate speech. The UK government has stated that it will strengthen legal regulation of social media platforms by proposing a new legal framework that will hold platforms more accountable for hate speech. In addition, the British Football Association has strengthened its cooperation with the Government and social media companies to combat racial discrimination online.

The incident also highlighted the importance of increasing understanding of racial equality and multiculturalism in the education system. A number of educational institutions in the United Kingdom have begun to reassess the content of their curricula, including education on online behaviour and civic responsibility, with a view to creating a more inclusive and sensitive generation.

Response strategies and challenges

Improving social media policies and practices

According to Lorna Woods et al. in Obliging Platforms to Accept a Duty of Care, social media platforms should take greater responsibility for protecting users from hate speech. (Lorna & Woods, 2021) In the wake of the England players’ incident, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have faced significant public and governmental pressure to strengthen their content monitoring and processing mechanisms. These platforms increased their automatic detection and manual review of hate speech and blocked a number of offending accounts. However, due to the complexity of hate speech and the diversity of its expression, the effectiveness of these measures remains a challenge and requires continuous technological innovation and policy adjustments.

Strengthening of the legal framework

As Sarah Roberts points out in Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of social media, the role of content censors in social media companies is crucial but extremely challenging. The incident has prompted the UK government to consider strengthening regulation of social media by proposing new legal frameworks, such as the Online Safety Bill, which would hold platforms more directly liable for hate speech that occurs on their platforms. (Roberts & Sarah T, 2019) This will require social media companies not only to increase their monitoring of content, but also to provide better support and training for content reviewers to ensure they can find a balance between complying with the law and protecting the rights of users.

Education and public awareness-raising

In the longer term, education systems globally need to integrate curricula on digital literacy and cyber etiquette to educate students to recognize and understand the impact of online hate speech. This includes learning how to recognize hate speech, how to respond appropriately, and how to use social media safely. Education should begin in elementary school and even kindergarten, incorporating these concepts as part of civic education and fostering critical thinking and empathy in children and adolescents. The Government and non-governmental organizations should jointly conduct public information campaigns to raise awareness of online hate speech among the entire population. These campaigns can take various forms, including through advertisements, social media, public lectures and seminars. For example, the United Nations and other international organizations could launch global campaigns to emphasize the importance of respect and tolerance and to encourage people to demonstrate more civilized and respectful behavior online.

Technology developers and social platforms can use algorithms to promote positive and healthy communication. For example, smarter content filtering algorithms could be developed that not only automatically identify and limit hate speech, but also recommend educational content and positive communication. In addition, social media platforms can create and promote tools and resources designed to educate users on how to counter hate speech and promote cybersecurity.

Discussion and insight

While we face many challenges, it is possible to reduce the spread of hate speech online through a combination of legal, technological and socio-educational efforts. Protecting freedom of expression while controlling hate speech requires us to find a balance that neither unduly restricts expression nor condones the existence of harmful speech. Whether for social media or public platforms or for individuals, this balance is very difficult to find, but we still need to work towards it!


Through education and public awareness-raising on a global scale, we are not only combating online hate speech, but also working to create a world of greater understanding, respect and equality. Online hate speech not only undermines the mental health and social well-being of individuals, it can also jeopardize social cohesion and economic development. When public spaces, including digital spaces, are hostile and divisive, it hinders the overall progress of society. By reducing such negative speech through education and public outreach, we can create an environment that is safer and more conducive to social cooperation and innovation. Such efforts will take time and sustained international cooperation, but every step forward is an important step towards a better society.


Matamoros-Fernández, A. (2017). Platformed racism: the mediation and circulation of an Australian race-based controversy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Information, Communication & Society, 20(6), 930-946.

Roberts, S. (2019). Behind the screen: content moderation in the shadows of social media.

Woods, L., & Perrin, W. (2021). Obliging platforms to accept a duty of care. In Oxford University Press eBooks (pp. 93–109).

National Museum of Australia; c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=National Museum of Australia. (n.d.). AFL apology to Adam Goodes. National Museum of Australia.

Hate speech in social media: How platforms can do better. (2022, February 21). University of Michigan News.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply