“Someone has to shoot this thing!!” one retired officer wrote.
In January, a Pennsylvania lawgiver shared on Facebook a picture mocking Levine’s look, then offered a general apology.
State Rep. Jeff Pyle, a Republican, aforesaid on Facebook that he “had no idea” the post mocking Levine “would be … received as poorly because it was” however that “tens of thousands of heated emails assured Maine it had been.”
The hatred that people have for you because you are visibly Muslim, you know, shows in the way that we’ve been crafted in public discourse.
“It is a very visceral and very negative image and Facebook has been supporting that through all these pages and groups through allowing these third party websites which openly suggest that Muslims are inherently subhuman, that we are apparently doing all these conspiracy theory things.”
The group also wants Facebook to amend its hate speech policy to recognise hateful characterisations of Muslims, such as painting Muslims as subhuman or savages.
The policy prohibits attacks against people based on their “characteristics” such as race, religion, or sexual orientation but allows attacks and criticisms of institutions.
Facebook has become one of the fastest growing social media platforms. At the end of 2013, Facebook
had 1,23bn monthly active users and 757 million daily users who log onto Facebook. Within this
online space, there are also a growing number of online virtual communities, and hate groups who are
using this space to share a violent, Islamophobic and racist narrative which attempts to create a hostile
virtual environment. It is important to analyse these ‘new’ communities by monitoring the activities
they conduct, because the material they post, potentially can have a damaging impact on community
cohesion within society. Moreover, as a result of recent figures that show an increase in online antiMuslim abuse, there is a pertinent need to address the issue about Islamophobia on social media.
This research examined 100 different Facebook pages, posts and comments and found 494 instances
of online hate speech directed against Muslim communities. The findings revealed some interesting
parallels and common characteristics shared within these groups, which helped the author to create a
typology of five characteristics of anti-Muslim hate espoused on Facebook. Overall, this study found
Muslims being demonised and vilified online which had manifested through negative attitudes,
discrimination, stereotypes, physical threats and online harassment which all had the potential to
incite violence or prejudicial action because it disparages and intimidates a protected individual or
orientation. There are also other offences such as using the content of a website which
can also be illegal when it threatens or harasses a person or a group of people. If such
material is posted because of hostility based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability
or transgender then it can be viewed as a hate crime. This material can also be
disseminated in either words, pictures, video, music and could include; messages calling
for racial or religious violence, direct webpages with pictures, videos or descriptions that
glorify violence against anyone due to their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or
because they are transgender and chat forums, where people ask other people to commit
Messages can be spread at great speed, people can remain anonymous and the nature of
cyber space remains unregulated. In particular for hate groups, wanting to recruit people
for their cause and also be given a platform to spread unsolicited material which can often
go unnoticed (Hewson et al., 2003). This allows them to capture audiences and use the
Internet as a propaganda tool for those purposes. Indeed, these communicative messages
can also cause a lot of discontent and impact upon measures of community cohesion
(McNamee et al., 2010).
Hate speech in this context is any form of language used to depict someone in a
negative fashion in regards to their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or
physical and mental disability with promotes hate and incites violence (Yar, 2013;
Feldman et al., 2013). This also links into the convergence of emotional distress caused by
hate online, the nature of intimidation and harassment online, and the prejudice that seeks
to defame groups through speech intending to injure and intimidate.
Hate on the Internet can have direct and indirect experiences for victims and
communities being targeted (Awan & Zempi, 2015a; Awan, 2016; Chakraborti &
Garland, 2009). In one sense, it can be used to harass and intimidate victims and on the
other hand, it can also be used for opportunistic crimes (Christopherson, 2007). The
Internet, therefore is a powerful tool by which people can be influenced to act in a certain
way and manner. What also is left in terms of direct impact is important, because it
impacts upon local communities and the understanding of how this could constitute acts
of violence offline (Douglas et al., 2005). Awan and Zempi (2015) found that online and
offline anti-Muslim hate crime can impact upon people’s lives to the extent that they feel
a sense of anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation. This is particularly strong when
considering hate speech online that aims to threaten and incite violence.
As noted above, a lot of the material online can also cause a lot of fear and it is
imperative that the police and other agencies within the security sector work together to
tackle hate crime on the Internet (Awan & Zempi, 2015b). The Association of Chief
Police Officers (ACPO) (2013) note how online hate material can cause damage to
community cohesion. They state that: “We understand that hate material can damage
community cohesion and create fear, so the police want to work alongside communities
and the Internet industry to reduce the harm caused by hate on the Internet” (cited
Hate crime on the Internet, can also be used as a means to create a virtual storage and
communicative messages that go beyond the physical to the virtual dimension (Iganski,
2012). For Perry (2003, p.19) this means the spectrum of hate crime does cross the line
into the virtual realm and as such Coliandris (2012, p. 82) argues hate crimes “are capable
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