Cardiff research team to monitor online hate crime around Brexit

Researchers from Cardiff University’s Social Data Science Lab have been awarded a quarter of a million pounds to monitor hate crime on social media.

The research team has been given a £250,000 grant to set up a centre to help the UK Government to identify and stop hate crime being spread across the internet.

Called the Centre for Cyberhate Research and Policy, it’s funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and will develop a monitoring tool that displays a live feed of hate speech.

This will provide the government with a way to explore the rise of hate crime on websites such as Twitter and help it create new policies to stop trolls in their tracks.

Professor Matthew Williams, the principal investigator on the project and co-director of the Social Data Science Lab at CardiffUniversity, said: “Hate crimes have been shown to cluster in time and tend to increase, sometimes significantly, in the aftermath of “trigger” events.

“The referendum on the UK’s future in the European Union has galvanized certain prejudiced opinions held by a minority of people, resulting in a spate of hate crimes. Many of these crimes are taking place on social media.

“Over the coming period of uncertainty relating to the form of the UK’s exit, decision makers will require near-real-time information on the likelihood of escalation of hateful content spread on social media.

The researchers will demonstrate how Brexit-style events can trigger the rise of online hate crime related to religion, immigration, sexual orientation and xenophobia.

They will collect data from over a 12-month period, beginning from June 23rd 2016, when the UK voted to leave the European Union. Machine learning will be used in this process.

A tool is currently being designed, and it’ll sport a dashboard that provides details of precursors to hate speech and the content that’s posted. URLs and hashtags will be displayed, too.

Cardiff University is working with a variety of organisations this project, including The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the Online Hate Crime Hub at the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police Service.

Dr Pete Burnap, computational lead on the project, said: “To date the information available to government on topics such as hate speech around Brexit has been post-hoc and descriptive.

“We will be enhancing our existing language models using cutting edge computational methods to mine massive amounts of public reaction and provide meaningful insights into hateful and antagonistic commentary within minutes of an event occurring.”

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