The Rise of Online Hate Speech in Italy

Published: 8 February 2018

Country: Italy

By Angelo Boccato

Screen_Shot_2018-02-11_at_15.33.52In an analysis by the Italian Committee named after the late British MP Jo Cox, hate speech featured at the second place, below hate crimes and above discriminations. The document titled “The pyramid of hate in Italy” shows that hate speech off and online can be found at different levels of the public and political debate in Italy.

When it comes to targets of online hate speech, according to the VOX Rights Observatory, women are the subjects of the 63% of all the negative tweets. LGBTQI community is targeted as much as migrants, almost 11% respectively. The findings further underlined the growth of far-right racist websites containing insults and offensive language directed to migrants, Roma people, Jewish people and Muslims.

The work of the Observatory VOX Diritti (VOX Rights) has been developed in collaboration with the Universities of Milan, Bari and Rome’s Sapienza. By analysing two million and seven-hundred thousands tweets over a period of time of seven months, the association has released its second Intolerance Map, which through geolocation highlights the areas in the country where the highest numbers of intolerant tweets originate.

The map divided under different categories (Misogyny, Homophobia, Racism, Islamophobia etc) highlighted a particular peak in Lombardy and Lazio, where the two main Italian cities Milan and Rome are located, while the central region of Umbria also recorded a significant amount of online hate speech.

More recently, actors and artists who chose to support the reform of the Italian citizenship, in order to extend it to second generations of Italians found themselves targets of online attacks.

The reactions among Italian celebrities were different; for example, Jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu, who chose to join the fasting in support of the reform received six-hundred insult and chose to publish online the ‘best’ ones,  while actor Alessandro Gassman chose to withdraw from his social media channels following repeated online attacks.

Since 2016, the National Office Against Racial Discrimination (UNAR in Italian) has been active through the National Media and Internet Observatory, in order to monitor and analyse potentially discriminatory content online. But findings of above mentioned researchers show how polluted and troubling is the public sphere ahead of the Italian elections on 4 March.