Online hate speech victimization: consequences for victims’ feelings of insecurity

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This paper addresses the question of whether and to what extent the experience of online hate speech affects victims’ sense of security. Studies on hate crime in general show that such crimes are associated with a significantly higher feeling of insecurity, but there is little evidence concerning the feeling of insecurity due to online hate speech. Based on a secondary data analysis of a representative population survey in Lower Saxony, Germany, on cybercrime in 2020 (N = 4,102), researchers tested three hypotheses regarding the effect of offline and online hate speech on feelings of insecurity.

As a result, compared to non-victims, victims of online hate speech exhibit a more pronounced feeling of insecurity outside the Internet. In contrast, victims of other forms of cybercrime do not differ in this regard from non-victims. We found no effect for offline hate speech when relevant control variables were included in the statistical model. Possible reasons for this finding are assumed to lie in the characteristics of the phenomenon of online hate speech, for example, because the hateful content spreads uncontrollably on the Internet and reaches its victims even in protected private spheres.

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