The tragedy caused by ¥200 – What can we do in the face of hate speech?

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

  1. Case Review

On April 3, 2022, a 33-year-old woman living in Hongkou District of Shanghai wanted to bring some food to her hearing-impaired father in Qingpu District. Trapped within the city’s lockdown, citizens find themselves bound by strict regulations, not allowed to venture out of their homes without a valid reason, the distance is too far (Hongkou District to Qingpu District 27 kilometers), the woman raised the price to 100 yuan, no one accepted the order, and finally, a kind soul, a simple Courier, heard her plight. Moved by the woman’s filial piety, he agreed to her request and was willing to send her this order.

(Figure 1: A delivery man delivering food at midnight, From Baidu,2022)

Even in the process, the little brother encountered various hardships such as no electric vehicle, blood marks on his hands, and road restrictions,which had to walk 2km, but the kind-hearted and helpful heart of the man supported him to deliver the food to the hearing-impaired father’s hands, and completed the lady’s entrust. The lady also repaid the man and took the initiative to turn 200 yuan red envelope for the kind people. At first, he did not accept the 200 yuan cause he felt very proud and satisfied to help this filial lady at this special time. Finally, in the concession, the lady still charged the phone bill of 200 yuan for him, in order to express gratitude and reward.

What started out as a beacon of warmth and compassion she posted online quickly turned into a maelstrom of vitriol and cruelty, with online abusers unleashing a torrent of scorn and condemnation on the unsuspecting woman. “Two hundred? Why is it only 200? Really astute “” Only turned 200, is it to send beggars?” “I am a student, I give more than 200” “Others are desperate to help you, but you are bullying honest people.”At first, she is still trying to explain, but still caught in the vortex of ruthless abuse and uncontrolled hostility, in the final despair, she gave up the shackles of mortals, and finally jumped from the roof of her own community, and her life was forever frozen at the age of 33. And what was meant to be a message of warmth and kindness turned into a bloody tragedy.

(Figure 1.1 Hate speech on the Internet about the incident. From Baidu,2022)

2. What is Hate Speech?

(Figure 2:Pinterest)

Flew said “Hate speech on the Internet and its proliferation across digital platforms and social media has become a growing concern” (Flew,2021). “Hate speech is recognized as a form of expression that requires a political response because of the harm it causes. While there is much debate about this concept” (Brown 2015, 2017). It is worth noting that the “ ‘hate speech’ here does not directly incite public violence in itself (Flew, 2021, p. 61), but “It should be about language that is harmful enough to cause serious harm and should be regulated, while insults and hurtful language will not be considered hate speech. Neither civil nor criminal law will use intentional harm or emotional harm as a yardstick for regulating speech.”(Sinpeng, Martin, Gelber, & Shields, 2021). ”

Firstly, it must occur in public, whether in real life or online, even if interactive acts such as “like or comments” are public.Few people care about events as they are, and most people are only willing to hide in their comfort zones and selectively absorb information that fits into their triad and makes them sore. (McDonald, 2019). In this context, Shanghainese are portrayed as a marginalized group and stereotypically associated with wealth and prosperity. This stereotype becomes a catalyst for attacks, causing netizens to discriminate against the group. So at the time of the incident, the abuser will collectively pull netizens into the vicious cycle of ‘Being a very rich Shanghainese, but only willing to pay 200 yuan for expressing gratitude and reward’. Langton said “Examples of what constitutes sexual victimization include verbal abuse and harassment of members of the target group, categorizing them as inferior and justifying discrimination against them.” (Langton 2012, 76-80, 86-89; Maitra and McGowan 2007, 62). Although not having a ‘Shanghainese’ label is not considered inferior in Chinese society, at the risk of stereotyping, people still think there is nothing wrong with their statements, and this discrimination masks the abuser’s hatred of the rich and the jealousy and distortion in his heart.”

She has another identity, that is a woman. To her hearing-impaired father, she was a daughter. “Gender stereotypes and arguments are one of the main causes of online harassment” (Flew, 2021). Abusers exploit women’s status as daughter and use society’s expectations of filial piety and family affection to justify harassment in their attempts to measure filial piety in monetary terms. Under the weight of multiple labels and stereotypes of Shanghai residents, women, mothers and daughters, the woman eventually became the victim of vicious attacks of online violence.

3.China’s measures to control Internet violence

Government Measures:

On September 15, 2023, Cyberspace administration of china (Cyberspace Administration of China, 2023) issued the Guiding Opinions on Further Strengthening the Reporting of Online Infringement Information.Make systematic planning and overall arrangement for the reporting of online infringement information. Among them, it is necessary to clarify the focus of handling individual reports and establish a rapid disposal channel for online violence information reports. These include accounts for the dissemination of online violence information, the establishment of a rapid disposal channel for online violence information reporting, the legal disposal of illegal websites and accounts involving negative information of enterprises.

Governance measures of the platform:

As a social media platform, Sina Weibo has always insisted on building a clear, safe and friendly cyberspace, continuously implementing technological innovations to manage cyberviolence, and establishing a perfect cyberviolence prevention and control mechanism. since March 2022, Sina Weibo has introduced 15 new functions such as one-click protection, friend comment induction, private message proofreading, and upgraded and optimized some of the original basic functions. since November 2022, Sina Weibo has used AI machine recognition technology to block 120 million unfriendly messages and 22 million unfriendly messages. Sina Weibo has utilized AI machine recognition technology to block 120 million unfriendly messages and 22 million unfriendly messages. More than 55,000 unfriendly messages were retraced, and more than 20,000 accounts were processed, with the number of users sending unfriendly private messages dropping by 70% year-on-year.

(Figure 3:The number of users who were dealt with for unfriendly behavior decreased by 90 percent compared to July. Machines blocked more than 120 million unkind messages; Check and clean up more than 225,000 unfriendly messages; Handled more than 20,000 accounts)

The Report shows that Sina Weibo has also continued to improve the level of prevention and control of online violence and enhance the effectiveness of prevention and control by formulating the Guidelines for Prevention and Control of Online Violence, revising the rules for handling online violence on Weibo, and organizing a forum for experts on online violence, among other means. Sina Weibo also took the opportunity of the Report to launch the “Three Calls, Three Resistances to Cyber Violence” campaign, calling on netizens to resist cyber violence and create a clean and positive cyber environment.

4.Global challenges

(Figure 4 from Pinterest)

In the realm of digital discourse, cyberbullying is just one aspect of a much broader spectrum of hate speech that can cause long-term psychological distress and, in severe cases, even be life-threatening. Internationally, hate speech is used against countless groups that are systematically marginalized. The internationally recognized coloured race,LGBTQ+ community and the Islamic religious community are prime examples. Laub said “White supremacists in the United States use the Internet to spread their discrimination against minorities such as blacks and have repeatedly attacked them”(Laub, 2019). These groups are often subjected to discrimination, verbal attacks and even physical threats, riots, etc., often arising from differences in belief systems. Such manifestations of trivial hatred not only undermine the fabric of social cohesion, but also pose a significant threat to the safety and well-being of people within these marginalized.

Once hate speech appears, its harm is not only violence and discrimination, but also causes social division and instability. Therefore, it is necessary to use laws to restrict hate speech.“Hate speech laws in the Asia-Pacific region form a diverse body of law based on the Constitution, supplemented by criminal and civil laws. These hate speech laws are often constrained by limited regulatory capacity.”(Sinpeng, Martin, Gelber, & Shields, 2021).

But legislation on hate speech remains difficult. The definition of hate speech in various countries is not accurate, and people’s right to freedom of speech and political beliefs will affect the government’s work in combating hate speech. Even some countries such as the Philippines have formulated corresponding policies, but they only apply to face-to-face situations rather than online situations. “The Philippines proposed a hate speech law in 2019, but this has been constantly sidelined for a variety of political reasons”(Sinpeng, Martin, Gelber, & Shields, 2021). Even if many countries put forward corresponding proposals, but due to the above factors, as well as the influence of history and culture, these plans will end in failure.

Combating hate speech globally is indeed very difficult and challenging, especially when there are differences between countries, cultures and faiths. Racial discrimination, disability discrimination, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia – all of these factors are prevalent and cause great harm to individuals and societies.

5. Action

The pernicious effects of hate speech go beyond mere personal suffering and extend to include the imperative of national security and the impact on the international community. However, the complexity of mitigation is compounded by the diversity of languages, national differences, and the richness of religious beliefs. These challenges highlight the difficulty of putting in place effective regulation to curb the spread of hate speech. 

For country:

States can regulate hate speech by enacting and enforcing relevant laws. These laws should clearly define the scope and penalties for hate speech and ensure that they are consistent with the principles of fairness, transparency and democracy without affecting freedom of expression. On the basis of legislation, it is more necessary to combine their own national conditions, cultural characteristics, religious beliefs and enhance the sensitivity of new sensitive words and news on the network, and constantly update the law. Combined with education and publicity, we can improve people’s awareness and vigilance of hate speech, enhance their ability to deal with hate speech, and improve their own psychological quality.

 For Platform:

“Social media platforms use a combination of artificial intelligence, user reports and content censors to censor hate”(Laub,2019). Mataoros said “The use of digital strategies can enable these companies to quickly identify and remove hateful content through trusted scanning mechanisms that combine human experience with technology.”(Matamoros & Farkas,2021). It is necessary to strengthen the training management of page administrators and strengthen the cooperation with stakeholders and organizations. It is undeniable that page administrators are the key gatekeepers of hate speech and improve their monitoring literacy through training and education, while partners are gatekeepers who can better combine the cultural knowledge of each country. They can provide  platform with intelligence in the first place. Second, platform needs to constantly update its assessment of the definition of hate speech and combine each country’s knowledge to accurately capture harmful speech without unduly affecting people’s freedom of expression. Finally, transparency is very important, not only to make public the information evidence of action against hate speech, so that society knows the determination to fight hate speech, but also to make public some information about partner programs in each country, so that people can give feedback and report more directly to partners.

For individual:

By retweeting, commenting, and liking, we are able to send a positive message of tolerance not only online, but also in public  (Paz et al., 2020). People can take a proactive approach in the face of hate speech. First, do not forward posts with hostile intent, or you may become a propagandist or financier of hate speech; second, in the face of hate speech, have the courage to express dissenting views and criticisms, and protect the rights and human rights of the victims. At the same time, it is important to reflect the warmth and solidarity of the community and provide support and assistance to those who are victimized by hate speech.You can also report hate speech to relevant platforms or organizations to facilitate timely deletion and cleanup. Finally, education and publicity can be used to raise public awareness and understanding of hate speech and promote moral and social values.

6. Conclusion

Addressing the daunting challenge of hate speech is not insurmountable and requires the concerted efforts of all parties. At the international level, there is a need to take into account the national conditions and cultural beliefs of different countries and break down language barriers; at the platform level, there is a need to continuously improve detection and filtering technologies and strengthen the supervision of website management and supervisors. From an individual perspective, it is necessary to raise awareness and understanding of hate speech, strengthen publicity and education, enhance social cohesion, cultivate correct values and promote social progress.


Brown, Alex. 2015. Hate Speech Law: A Philosophical Examination. New York: Routledge.—. 2017. “What is Hate Speech? Part 1: The Myth of Hate.” Law and Philosophy 36 (February): 419-468.

Cyberspace Administration of China (2023,09,15) Guiding Opinions on Further Strengthening the work of reporting online Infringement Information

Flew, Terry (2021) Hate Speech and Online Abuse. In Regulating Platforms. Cambridge: Polity, pp. 91-96 (pp. 115-118 in some digital versions)

Laub, Z. (2019). Hate Speech on Social Media: Global Comparisons. Council on Foreign Relations; Council on Foreign Relations.

Langton, Rae. 1993. “Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 22, no. 4 (Autumn): 293-330.

Maitra, Ishani, and Mary Kate McGowan. 2007. “The Limits of Free Speech: Pornography and the Question of Coverage.” Legal Theory 13, iss. 1 (May): 41–68.

Flew, T. (2021). Regulating Platforms. United Kingdom: Polity Press.

Macdonald, H. (2019). Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality. United Kingdom: Transworld Publishers Limited.

Matamoros-Fernández, A., & Farkas, J. (2021). Racism, hate speech, and social media: A systematic review and critique. Television & new media, 22(2), 205-224.

Paz, M. A., Montero-Díaz, J., & Moreno-Delgado, A. (2020). Hate speech: A systematized review. Sage Open, 10(4), 2158244020973022.

Sinpeng, A., Martin, F., Gelber, K., & Shields, K. (2021, July 5). Facebook: Regulating hate speech in the Asia Pacific.


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