Hate online affects minorities
One in four people is confronted with violence on the internet
February 13, 2024, 1:33 p.m
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The Internet is not a lawless space, politicians insist like a mantra. Reality is perceived differently. According to a survey, almost 90 percent believe that hate online is increasing. This particularly often affects migrants, women and homosexual and bisexual people. Violence is often involved.
Hate on the Internet continues to increase: almost every second person in Germany has been insulted online at some point. This is the result of the study “Loud Hate – Quiet Retreat” by the Competence Network against Hate on the Internet. For the representative survey, 3,000 Internet users aged 16 and over were surveyed. 49 percent of them had already been insulted online, 25 percent had been confronted with physical violence and 13 percent with sexual violence.
The numbers show a clear picture, said Family Minister Lisa Paus when presenting the study, the editor of which is supported by her department. “Unfortunately, hate on the internet is omnipresent and continues to increase.”
The respondents also see it this way: 89 percent, the majority, think that hate on the Internet has increased in recent years. According to the survey, people with a visible migration background are particularly often affected (30 percent each), young women (28 and 36 percent respectively), as well as people with homosexual and bisexual orientation. Almost every second young woman – 42 percent – has also received a nude photo without asking.
According to the study, this also influences freedom of expression online. At 57 percent, more than half of those surveyed are less likely to express their own political opinions online due to fear. 55 percent take part in discussions less often, and almost as many deliberately word their contributions more cautiously. 82 percent of those surveyed also fear that online hate will endanger online diversity. More than three quarters are concerned that online hate will also increase violence in everyday life.
Paus: Debate culture on the internet is suffering
In view of the study results, Paus described online hatred as a “threat to democracy as a whole.” If fewer people express their opinions online, it undermines the culture of debate and damages democracy. Digital hatred could also turn into analog violence. The minister emphasized: “We must do more to counter hate online at an early stage.” She therefore announced that she would review the laws and adjust them if necessary.
In the fight against right-wing extremism, Berlin member of the Bundestag Renate Künast believes it is important to take decisive action against hatred on the Internet. “The future will be decided on the Internet, and we have to take social and political action,” said Künast on RBB Inforadio. The Internet is now dominant. “You can quickly create emotions and moods with wrong or right facts and hate campaigns based on them,” said the Green politician. Right-wing extremists or states that wanted to destroy democracy or create a mood also took advantage of this. “All of this leads people to beliefs that are not fact-based,” said Künast.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser spoke out in favor of an “intensive dialogue between the state, civil society and the platforms”. The EU Digital Services Act (DSA) offers new instruments that must now be consistently enforced. “We focus on prevention, on the consistent deletion of hate speech and on the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.”
The study was published by the Competence Network against Hate on the Internet, in which five organizations such as HateAid and the New German Media Makers have joined forces. The Pollytix agency was responsible for the survey.