Historically PCMLP has had a strong role in this field – we have received significant funding for developing new methods to identify hate speech online, and we were commissioned by UNESCO to write a report on Hate Speech Online. Building on this past work, our current research interests include:

The politics of flagging

Companies like facebook continue to rely on users to flag extreme speech. But all of Africa combined flags as much as Germany. How users define hate speech, what they think happens when they do flag (particularly in authoritarian systems), and the diversity and nuances of speech even within national borders, pose significant challenges. How are users becoming the ‘new governors’ of what speech is acceptable? And who has the authority and knowledge to adjudicate disputes?

Information intervention in the age of social media

There is precedent for how the international community can address mass media in situations of extreme violence such as Rwanda or the Balkans (eg NATO bombing transmitters, the UN shutting down newspapers) but there is little discussion about the role of the international community intervening in situations when social media is clearly inciting genocide (as in Myanmar).What are the legal justifications for states or the international community to interfere with foreign social media companies complicit in violent conflicts? What type of mechanism (perhaps at the UN) can be set up to address this?

Comparative approaches to disinformation

Disinformation is nothing new. The primary difference since the advent of new media is how much of it there is, how fast it spreads and how far it reaches. In the last couple of years, the online distribution of false information has raised serious concerns worldwide. The risk for democracy, the threat for fundamental rights and the role of traditional media outlets are only some of the primary topics addressed in the aftermath of events like the 2016 Brexit referendum or the last US presidential election. What countermeasures and regulatory frameworks are being developed? How are democracies dealing with the growing role of disinformation differently from more autocratic governments?