How social media users perceive different forms of online hate speech: A qualitative multi-method study


Although many social media users have reported encountering hate speech, differences in the perception between different users remain unclear. Using a qualitative multi-method approach, we investigated how personal characteristics, the presentation form, and content-related characteristics influence social media users’ perceptions of hate speech, which we differentiated as first-level (i.e. recognizing hate speech) and second-level perceptions (i.e. attitude toward it). To that end, we first observed 23 German-speaking social media users as they scrolled through a fictitious social media feed featuring hate speech. Next, we conducted remote self-confrontation interviews to discuss the content and semi-structured interviews involving interactive tasks. Although it became apparent that perceptions are highly individual, some overarching tendencies emerged. The results suggest that the perception of and indignation toward hate speech decreases as social media use increases. Moreover, direct and prosecutable hate speech is perceived as being particularly negative, especially in visual presentation form.



New Media & Society