Does Public Tolerance for Racist Posts on Social Media Promote Racism?

Does Public Tolerance for Racist Posts on Social Media Promote Racism?

Does Public Tolerance for Racist Posts on Social Media Promote Racism?


The social media is a term used to refer to a variety of internet-based system of communication such as Facebook, Twitter. Instagram, and Whatsapp. They are preferred by many people, especially the young generation, due to their convenience, speed and cost effectiveness in communication. With the relative lowering of the costs of internet access, social media has become the most utilized mode of communication in the world.  With more than 6.8 billion people having access to the internet, the internet has the potential of reaching almost all sections of the world and all families. However, despite the positive attributes of social media, irresponsible use has major consequences to users and society. Many cases of social crime have been reported, especially user bullying. Also, there is an increase in the use of social media to plan, execute, and coordinate racial attacks.

Despite the unprecedented increase in the use of the internet, there is little progress in the efforts to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of racial hatred on social media. This challenge is especially worsened by the fact that criminals tend to hide their real identity, making it hard for the investigative authorities to identify and arrest them. Also, many countries have weak laws governing the abuse of social media, which makes it difficult to prosecute offenders. Therefore, the problem has grown to alarming levels and continues to affect the users who may experience racial attacks. This research aims at investigating the extent of online racism, and the responses that racist posts attract. The findings of the research will help in highlighting the extent of racial abuse on social media and how this problem can be addressed.

Literature Review

            An analysis of the literature shows that racism is a major problem in the world today and that social media has made it worse. According to Cole (2018), the topic of racism, and its continued expression is a sensitive and painful subject because it draws on America’s painful history. He adds that for many families, such insensitive emotions also elicit painful memories because their relatives might have suffered due to racism. As such, the idea of racism needs to be addressed with the sensitivity it deserves.

            Patton et al. (2017) explain that the problem of social media expression on social media has been increasing, and has reached levels which have attracted police intervention. They explain that while efforts to get enough evidence and prosecute offenders have been on-going, it has not been easy because of the anonymity of some of the users who tend to hide their real identities. In their study, they examine how urban policing has moved online, and race affects social media policing. In this view, police institutions have been part of the perpetuation of racism in society through the racial profiling of black populations living in urban areas. The group is treated as natural assailants even before the police have any evidence of intended criminal activity. Since police departments use social media to gather intelligence, they have contributed to the problem of racial profiling on social media online. As such, Patton et al. (2017) show the extent of the problem and the helplessness of the victims.

            Jakubowicz (2017) observes that cyber racism has increased in the last few years, spreading to become a global problem. He finds that the problem has in some cases become noticeable enough to attract boycotts of Facebook and Alphabet by some companies in 2017, which caused the online companies significant financial losses. Jakubowicz (2017) adds that in some cases, some racist groups set up accounts with the sole intention of propagating racial attacks on people of different races. For example, he notes that ‘The Dingoes,’ a group that was inspired by the Trump campaign, set up a social network in Australia to racially attack Africans, Muslims, and other minorities. These attacks are not isolated and unconnected events, as there is a pattern in which well-organized groups are using the internet to spread hate against other races (Jakubowicz, 2017). As such, with the internet and social media, it is possible for a small group of people to stage racial attacks against a whole group or race of individuals. In this view, racism on social media is now a global problem that may continue increasing with time.

            Orrù (2017) discusses how social media has become the platform on which people express their hate against immigrants and other racial minorities. He observes that in some countries, more than 60 percent of the population has access to the internet, which means that expression of hate on social media can reach many people. He notes that in Italy, African migrants have become objects of racial hatred on social media, with the Italian hate groups posting messages that portray them as people who have come to take up Italian resources and jobs. He observes that some of the posts seek to exploit the old stereotypes about the immigrants, while creating new ones that feed the public mind with fear against the immigrants, thereby increasing the percentage of the population which resent against the immigrants. The social media also serves as a platform for racist groups seeking to recruit new members. Orrù (2017) notes that widespread racism and xenophobia online is a threat to world peace and integration and that it needs to be addressed quickly. As such, racism on social media is a major problem in the world, which needs to concern the authorities because if it continues increasing, it could have major consequences on world integration.

            Ekman (2018) observes that in the European Union, the recent refugee migrations from Africa and Arab nations have caused an increase in racial attitudes on social media. He notes that the U.S’s 2015 elections have motivated similar feelings in the Union and that many European Union citizens have become racially sensitive. In the country, racist elements create a feeling of a country under attack from the migrants, which is aimed at making the public afraid of the new entrants, and therefore inciting hatred against them. Also, Ekman (2018) observes that the problem of racial attacks in the European Union has been severe, with the social media being used to mobilize gangs which team up to attack the migrants.

            According to Keum and Miller (2018), in many cases, the racial attacks on social media have adopted a gender angle, with women of minority races experiencing many racial attacks. They note that the problem of racism is rampant online and that females of minority race on social media are likely to experience racial or sexist attacks compared to those of majority groups in the society. From the review of literature, it is evident that social media racism is a widespread problem, and has a major impact on society and the victims.


            There is much racism on social media, and it has been increasing with the increase in the number of people using social media for communication and entertainment. In some countries, the problem has caught the attention of the law enforcement authorities, with efforts to investigate and prosecute the offenders going on. However, it fighting this vice has been difficult since many users of social media use fake names to hide their true identity. Also, social media racism has the potential of destabilizing societies; in some countries, racists have used social media to coordinate gang activities and to recruit people to commit racial crimes against minorities. Much as the authorities may have taken some action against racist attacks, there is little progress in reducing the attacks online. Also, the larger public has remained disinterested to the racist attacks as long as they target others. The attacks have also continued to flourish owing to the tolerance of the public of these offenses. As such, it is important for the public to help fight racism on social media by expressing anti-racist comments on racial posts. Also, they can provide information to the investigative authorities about their friends and family who post racists comments. Unless the public makes it their concern to fight racism, it is likely to increase in scope and depth, making the world less tolerant of diverse opinion and culture.


Cole, J. (2018). I’m not a racist, but racism is in me-and in my community. Communities, (178), 31-35.

Ekman, M. (2018). Anti-refugee Mobilization in Social Media: The Case of Soldiers of Odin. Social Media and Society Journal, January-March 2018: 1 –1.

Jakubowitz, A. (2017). Alt_Right White Lite: Trolling, Hate Speech and Cyber Racism on  Social Media. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: an Interdisciplinary Journal. 9(3),2017.

Keum, B. T. & Miller, M.J. (2018). Measurement Invariance of the Perceived Online Racism Scale across Age and Gender. Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 12 (3), (2018).

Orrù, P. (2014). Racist Discourse on Social Networks: A Discourse Analysis of

Facebook Posts in Italy. Rhesis International Journal of Linguistics, Philology

            and Literature. January, 2014 5.1: 113-133, 2014.

Patton, D. U. (2017). Stop and Frisk Online: Theorizing Everyday Racism in Digital

            Policing in the Use of Social Media for Identification of Criminal Conduct and      Associations. Social Media and Society Journal, July  September, 2017, 1–10.


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