Two Researchers from the University of Warwick, named Karsten Miller and Carlo Schwarz, have conducted a study which analyzed the anti-refugee attacks in Germany. Some of the factors that were considered for the study included wealth, demographics, political support, newspaper sales, number of refugees, past crimes against refugees and the number of protests.
The pattern that emerged suggested that the towns where Facebook usage was higher than the average were more involved in the anti-refugee attacks.
This link between the increasing refugee attacks and Facebook usage was independent of the size of the city, the social status of people residing there, and political stance. This suggests that the link is applicable universally.
An article in The New York Times which discusses this study says that the people living in Altena, a small town in Germany, have seen Facebook posts that put refugees in a bad light. There are pages surfacing on Facebook that are aimed at inducing racial hatred in the community, which is, otherwise, not hostile to refugees.
When other researchers reviewed the research, they concluded the results to be credible and described it as “rigorous” and “disturbing.”
A recent attack on refugees by a young German fireman named Dirk Denkhaus has raised concerns amongst locals. The data found from his mobile phone has pointed towards his deep involvement in the online world which made him hostile and violent towards refugees.
Facebook has declined any comment on the issue but according to a spokesperson from Facebook, “Our approach on what is allowed on Facebook has evolved over time and continues to change as we learn from experts in the field.”
We have seen that Facebook has toughened its stance on hate speech but the social media platform needs to understand that it’s not the only factor that leads to violence and spews hatred. The algorithm of Facebook is designed in a manner that the content with maximum user engagement will be featured on the top of the news feed.
It has been seen that the posts involving negative emotions such as anger, hatred or fear engage more users and perform best on the platform. It is the need of the hour that Facebook realizes its social responsibility and initiates measures that curb the influence of the online world on people.