Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1350: Misogynistic and Xenophobic Hate Language Online: A Matter of Anonymity

Emma von Essen and Joakim Jansson ()
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Emma von Essen: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: and Department of Economics and Business, Aarhus University, Denmark
Joakim Jansson: Department of Economics and Statistics, Linnaeus University, Postal: and Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: In this paper, we quantify hateful content in online civic discussions of politics and estimate the causal link between hateful content and writer anonymity. To measure hate, we first develop a supervised machine-learning model that predicts hate against foreign residents and hate against women on a dominant Swedish Internet discussion forum. We find that an exogenous decrease in writer anonymity leads to less hate against foreign residents but an increase in hate against women. We conjecture that the mechanisms behind the changes comprise a combination of users decreasing the amount of their hateful writing and a substitution of hate against foreign residents for hate against women. The discussion of the results highlights the role of social repercussions in discouraging antisocial and criminal activities.

Keywords: Online hate; Anonymity; Discussion forum; Machine learning; Big data

JEL-codes: C55; D00; D80; D90

76 pages, August 14, 2020

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