The research aimed to identify: (1) hateful content and its types in new media forms in Serbia, (2) key hate speech generators, (3) diffusion dynamics of content, (4) widening of hate speech through comments and reactions from the audience, (5) possibilities for preventive and ex post actions against online hate speech. Following the project methodology, we identified four target groups that are particularly exposed to online hate in Serbia: migrants, political opponents to the government, journalists and youth. By surveying the happenings in a given time frame (from June 2019 until June 2020), we additionally identified specific events that triggered a large number of hostile responses from online users.
Hate speech generators put a lot of effort into networking to make their message as visible as possible. This creates specific clusters in the form of connected local portals, Facebook pages / groups or YouTube channels. Not all clusters are equally pervasive, and the virality they provide depends largely on how homogeneous the community is. A hate campaign is more successful if it is promoted through pages and groups whose members have a strong common sentiment, ie. common anger – towards the authorities, the opposition, migrants, journalists, women…
Counter-narratives were very rare in the observed sample, which can be explained by the homogeneity of groups and clusters that incite toxic narratives and hate speech. In addition, someone who expresses a different opinion, who opposes the dominant narrative within an online community, is essentially exposing himself to risk and insults, and potentially cyber violence. That is why, at different levels, it is necessary to provide support to individuals and groups that strive to make the online space in Serbia more decent, responsible, democratic and less violent.
The research is conducted within the project BEHAVE – SEE Beyond Hate: Learning and Acting to Counter Hate Speech Online in South East Europe in partnership of Peace Institute Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences – University of Ljubljana, Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia and Novi Sad School of Journalism, Serbia. In Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian language the project title is (Od)govor.
The project is funded by the European Union within the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program of the European Commission.
You can download the publication here. It is available in Serbian, with an abstract in English.