ESR Name: Ina Weber

Institution: University of Antwerp

Supervisor(s)Prof. H. Vandebosch, Prof. K. Poels, Prof. S. Pabian

Project Title: Countering online hate-speech through technological interventions.

Project Synopsis: The spread of hate speech in digital spaces such as social media platforms and comment sections on news websites remains a significant problem. At the end of 2020, Facebook alone took action against 26.9 million pieces of hateful content - a number only referring to content labelled as hate speech, excluding other forms of online aggression (Facebook, 2020). Studies show that exposure to online hate contributes to polarisation and normalises hate in online interactions (Bilewicz & Soral, 2020). Given the scale of the problem, there is a need for more proactive intervention tools and strategies to prevent and counter hate speech, such as interfaces that prompt users to reflect on their online behaviour (Van Royen et al., 2017). The aim of this research project is to develop novel technological approaches which specifically address the perpetrators of online hate. The project encompasses research on how personal and social factors,as well as the digital environment itself, facilitate the dissemination of online hate. The developed prototype intervention will be tested in regard to user acceptance and efficacy in lab and field studies. Lastly, the prototype intervention will be analysed from a human rights perspective in collaboration with eLaw Leiden University.

ESR Biography: Ina Weber is a PhD candidate in the research group Media and ICT in Organisations and Society (MIOS) in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Antwerp. Her research focuses on the development of technological interventions to prevent online hate speech. Within this framework, she is particularly interested in the ways in which users interact with and make sense of technology, and how to apply these insights to improve technological interventions to prevent and reduce the spread of online hate speech. Ina holds a Master of Arts degree in Media, Culture and Society from Erasmus University Rotterdam. For her master’s thesis, she conducted an experiment on user perceptions of recommendation algorithms on music streaming platforms. She applied her research interest in perceptions of technology in her work as a graduate research assistant in a Facebook-funded project on hate speech moderation, for which she compared user perspectives on human and algorithmic content moderators. Ina has furthermore worked as a lecturer at Erasmus University Rotterdam and taught courses on sociology, digital content production and quantitative research methods. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Management from the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg, Germany.