University of Coimbra (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 5681-5686
ISBN: 978-84-09-17939-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2020.1533
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
Hate speech in social media has been an increasing concern, particularly during the last decade. Today, the rates of technology adoption are very high, particularly among the younger groups. Students are permanently connected through mobile technologies and the explosion of social media led to major changes in the flows of communication. Social platforms became the chosen vehicle for personal communication, for getting the news and for entertainment. At the same time, social media reflects the growing ideological polarization that is particularly visible on politics, religion, environmental and gender and sexualities issues. They also became the primary vehicle for online disinformation, which became one of the biggest threats to democracy in recent years. It is impossible to analyse today’s media without considering disinformation and infoxication as intrinsic elements of the communication ecosystem. International organizations like UNESCO and the Council of Europe have been promoting initiatives to support countries in tackling this issue. Social media platforms are also defining rules against diverse forms of intolerance particularly directed at vulnerable groups. There is a growing body of feminist research that has mainly focused in identifying how social media platforms can be toxic environments for women, namely by facilitating image-based sexual abuses and the sexual objectification of women and girls.

Higher education students are a critical group regarding this problem. Not only they are permanently connected, but they are also frequently less prepared to deal with disinformation and discriminatory digital interactions than they think.

In this qualitative study, we want to know how higher education students in Portugal deal with online hate speech, particularly gender-focused hate speech.

We present results from four focus groups that were conducted with both Portuguese and Brazilian students (n=29). Findings promote a deeper understanding of the proliferation of hate speech on social media, particularly towards female foreign students and point at the importance of promoting curricular and extra-curricular literacy programs, as well as mechanisms of monitoring on social platforms.
Hate speech, Social media, Higher education students, Gender-focused hate speech.