Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime

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Karsten MMller; Carlo Schwarz
Elsevier BV
Social Media; Hate Crime; Minorities; Germany; AfD
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article description
This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using hand-collected data from Facebook. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major social media presence. Using a Bartik-type empirical strategy, we show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts violent crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. To establish causality, we further exploit exogenous variation in major internet and Facebook outages, which fully undo the correlation between social media and hate crime. We further find that the effect decreases with distracting news events; increases with user network interactions; and does not hold for posts unrelated to refugees. Our results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism between online hate speech and real-life incidents.