Hate Speech after Brexit

The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos has been undertaking research into the impact that the European Referendum result has had on xenophobia and racism on Twitter, and also how the platform has been used to both report hate speech incidents and to express solidarity with migrants.

A full overview of the study, which also included research into Islamophobia on Twitter in the aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, can be downloaded here:

A methodological paper supporting the studies can be downloaded here.

Key findings are highlighted below:

2,413 online reports of hate speech & racial abuse in Brexit aftermath

  • Exclusive Demos analysis finds 2,413 unique reported incidents from UK streets of hate speech and xenophobic abuse in the week following the EU Referendum
  • Identifies 13,236 tweets sent in the UK from 24 June–1 July with xenophobic or anti-immigrant attitudes
  • But study also finds Twitter was used as a platform for expressing solidarity with migrants and challenging racism – with 44,003 tweets sent during the same period under the #SafetyPin support hashtag

New analysis from Demos think tank has captured a significant spike in online and offline hate speech in the aftermath of the European Referendum.

Undertaken with in-house big data technology built by the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, the research found 13,236 tweets were sent in the UK during the week 24 June-1 July with xenophobic or anti-immigrant attitudes.

Through complex algorithms, Demos also identified 2,413 unique incidents of hate crime on the UK’s streets reported on Twitter in the week after Brexit. Almost 1,000 of these incidents were then able to be mapped with geo-location data.

Demos’ study found that discussion of racism was highly contested and not simply limited to explicit abuse – with many users also taking to Twitter to express solidarity with migrants and minorities in the wake of the Referendum. The #SafetyPin hashtag of support was used 44,003 times in the week after the Brexit result.

However, solidarity tweets peaked substantially in the immediate aftermath of the Referendum outcome, and have declined since, while the derogatory and abusive language has remained relatively constant.

Immigration was identified as one of the three key themes of the digital Referendum campaign, alongside sovereignty and the economy. Between 22-30 June, there were 258,553 tweets sent from the UK talking about migrants and refugees.

Overall, Demos found that Leave campaigners, who sent on average five or more pro-Brexit tweets, were much more active than Remain campaigners – tweeting 97,000 times compared to 13,000 times in the critical days before the vote.

Media contact:
Alexandra Porter
e. [email protected]
ph. 0207 367 4200

Notes to Editors:

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos is both a research hub and technology lab, leading the study of how the rise of the digital world influences politics and society.

Please note that the 2,413 tweets citing hate speech incidents are not necessarily all distinct reports, nor have they been verified and investigated.

This analysis was undertaken for the ‘Racist Britain’ episode of Channel 4 Dispatches, which airs at 20.00 on Monday 11 July 2016.