Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Hate: Hate and Conspiracy
Thursday, 03/Nov/2022:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Alice E. Marwick
Location: EQ-208

60 seats flexible

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#ISOLATEGAB: How Federated Social Media Developed A Novel Approach to Stopping Online Hate Speech

Robert William Gehl

York University, CA

Internet studies is increasingly examining platform governance. So far, the conversation focuses heavily on the well-known, large corporate actors (e.g., Meta, Twitter) and how these massive companies use a mix of automated and human-driven moderation within a larger regulatory environment. If there is discussion of alternatives, it tends to be focused on alt-right platforms (e.g., Gab, Parler, or Truth) and largely frames these as unmoderated. This presentation tells the story of Mastodon's 2019 repudiation of Gab and its 2022 repudiation of Truth Social as a way to help us understand another approach to platform governance: noncentralized, noncorporate, and more democratic. Drawing on participant observation, interviews, and critical software studies, the presentation tells of a conflict. On the one side is a network of coders and activists working to make social media just and equitable, and on the other side are power-craving would-be media moguls who want to profit off of racism, transphobia, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories. The ultimate argument of this presentation is that the fediverse represents a new, democratic means of platform governance that can quickly and confidently cordon off online hate speech in ways that the corporate social media giants simply cannot. As such, the goal of the presentation is to bring federated social media to the attention of the Internet studies community.

Platformization of conspiracism: Introducing a theoretical framework for investigating conspiracy theories on "alternative" platforms using a case study of BitChute and Gab

Daniela Mahl, Jing Zeng, Mike S. Schäfer

University of Zurich, Switzerland

Digital platforms have modified conspiracy theory communication as they enable users to publicly share their support, to circumvent traditional gatekeepers, and to form like-minded communities. However, the impacts of conspiracy discourses differ greatly between platforms. By drawing on critical platform studies, this article introduces a theoretical and analytical framework to investigate the interplay and mutual shaping between “alternative” platforms and conspiracy theory communication, which we describe as the platformization of conspiracism. Along the four interconnected dimensions of our framework – infrastructure, economic model, governance, and user culture of platforms – we examine BitChute and Gab in the context of conspiracy theory communication. To investigate the platforms' technological features, business model, and governance practices, we conduct a documentation analysis of media reports and the platforms own news updates alongside an in-depth examination of each platform's functionality and interface. To gain insights into the user culture, i.e., the key characteristics and monetizing strategies of conspiracy theory propagators, we analyze 20 prominent conspiracy theory channels and profiles from BitChute and Gab, respectively. Findings from our study shed light on how both platforms have positioned themselves as technological equivalents to their “mainstream” counterparts by offering similar features and how they differ from their counterparts by presenting themselves as defenders of free speech. At the user level, our findings suggest that both platforms provide conspiracy propagators a fertile refuge through which they can maintain their presence and connection with their followers – which also allows them to profit from their visibility by receiving monetary rewards.

Success as Antithetical to Safety: Researching the Far Right in an Academic Context

Antonia C Vaughan

University of Bath, United Kingdom

Academics are increasingly understood as a ‘vulnerable population’, with researchers being exposed to networked harassment, threats, attacks to credibility, and vicarious trauma. However, protection measures from these risks are often antithetical to the neoliberal emphasis on individual responsibility, production, and success metrics. Prioritising public scholarship, publications, and digital presence, academics increasingly understand the need to build a profile to have an edge in an incredibly competitive job market. However, the more visible a researcher, the more at risk they are from networked harassment and attention from the broader far right. Whilst attention is increasingly being paid to the issue of researcher welfare and safety, it tends to be either focused solely on individual practices or institutional structures. This paper critiques the broader environment researchers of the far right operate in, particularly focusing on the impact of digital presence and the job market on researcher safety and wellbeing. Drawing from 21 interviews with researchers of the far right, this paper situates their experiences within the broader environment that renders emotional and physical protection inaccessible to most. Situating lived experience within literature on the neoliberalism of academia and the libertarian internet, the results indicate that risk and harm are embedded in the practice of researching the far right with available mitigations experienced as incompatible with success. Those working at the intersections of marginalisation and precarity report making choices that may harm their career in order to safeguard themselves; broader issues in both academia and the online environment are magnified at this intersection.


Maja Brandt Andreasen

Dublin City University, Ireland

This paper investigates the discursive construction of sexual violence in humorous Internet memes. Feminist digital media scholars have taken an increased interest in the ways in which Internet communication and content reproduces notions of gender norms as well as creating misogynist, racist, homophobic and transphobic content. However, little research has investigated the role humour plays in this discourse – especially how it is presented in Internet memes.

Using #MeToo as a case study, the paper investigates the role of humour in memes that focus on sexual violence. Investigating how gender and sexuality are discursively constructed in memes, the paper focuses on how this plays into the representation of sexual violence. The paper asks: what can Internet scholars learn by taking Internet humour seriously?

The key findings of this paper is the discursive construction of sexual violence and the role humour plays in this. A himpathetic (Manne 2018) logic runs through most of the memes which centralises men’s experiences and provides disproportionate sympathy with male perpetrators and widely disregards the experiences of female victims.

Humour is used to signal inclusion and exclusion as the platforms become spaces for indicating and reaffirming heteronormativity and homosociality. The work done by humour discursively excludes women, sexual minorities and people of colour. This exclusion extends to victim/survivors who often become the butt of the joke and are used as a prop to create a humorous meme.

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