A Comparative Approach to Social Media Extreme Speech: Online Hate Speech as Media Commentary

By exploring lessons learned from Ethiopia and Finland, this article challenges two assumptions about online hate speech research. First, it challenges the assumption that the best way to understand controversial concepts such as online hate speech is to determine how closely they represent or mirror some underlying set of facts or state of affairs online or in social media. Second, it challenges the assumption that academic research should be seen as separate from the many controversies that surround online hate speech debates globally. In its place, the article proposes the theory of “commentary” as a comparative research framework aimed at explaining how the messy and complex world of online and social media practices is articulated as hate speech over other ways of imagining this growing problem in global digital media environments.

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