Is Social Media Influencing Hateful Violence Towards America’s Religious Communities?

Joshua Fitch

A woman mourns for the loss of a loved one, as eleven are confirmed dead during a synagogue service at the tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

October 27, 2018 Pittsburgh PA- It was a calm and peaceful day at the tree of life synagogue as the Jewish Passover began on a Friday night. Close relatives and friends gathered together in unity to celebrate Sedor ( a Jewish tradition in which the Jewish people hold a feast in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt). Families of all generations were retelling the story of Moses’s conquest to Canaan and were praying together in peace and quietness. Then in an instant, tragedy struck, as forty-six-year-old Robert Gregory Bowes – An Antisemitist From Baldwin PA
Pennsylvania opened fire killing eleven people and injuring seven with his AR-15. Police are now investigating the incident, arguing that a sentence of death is justifiable. Many citizens reacted in astonishment as the squirrel hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh is home to one of the largest and oldest Jewish populations in the United States. Although this tragedy left fear within the Jewish communities around the world. Scholars are beginning to study the reason behind these incidents. According to Time magazine, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-government militants, and other like-minded organizations have long been a source of anxiety to terrorism analysts who have watched the groups step up violence inside The United States in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League, the left-leaning nonprofit that tracks anti-Semitism, found in its annual report that the number of murders conducted by white supremacists in the U.S. more than doubled last year to 20 people, compared to 2016. The report documented how right-wing extremist sentiments shared online often spill into the real world, including the march on Charlottesville, Va., which resulted in the vehicle-ramming attack that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.  
Despite the primary source data analytics, Maya Mirchandani ( a Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and Assistant Professor of Broadcast Journalism and Media Studies at Ashoka University in India). Believes that social media’s impact on mainstream media, and the way people communicate with one another and disseminate information, has become a subject of serious study for journalists, academics and policymakers alike. While it has been a significant equalizer as a vehicle by which the fundamental right to freedom of expression is guaranteed everyone irrespective of class, creed or geography, these very same platforms are also becoming spaces wherein the garb of free speech—misinformation and hate can flourish. Around the world, these spaces provide both tacit and overt sanction for rising incidents of majoritarian violence as identity-based, populist politics dominate the country’s landscape. This paper analyses the intersections between free speech and hate speech and the impact of majoritarian hate speech. It asks whether government agencies and individuals working to counter-terrorism and violent extremism in India can bring majoritarian violence of this nature under their umbrella. 
Hate speech is not just affecting different religions but is also affecting different age groups. If we study this problem from a demographic context. Hate post often causes harm to America’s teens.  According to, The first of these is the clearest, though – as with cyberbullying – the harm done may not be visible to perpetrators. Indeed, a significant amount of cyberbullying is motivated by hate: for example, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are almost twice as likely to report having been bullied online as those who are straight,] while young women are twice as likely to have been sexually harassed online as young men. Young people who experience online hate are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, and targets of online hate may suffer harassment and violence offline as well.  A frequent form of targeted hate is “doing,” the act of publishing a target’s home address or other personal information as a way of encouraging others to harass them. As a result, members of vulnerable groups may be more reluctant to speak freely online or withdraw from online spaces entirely, which has an impact not just on them, but also on the online communities they’re a part of.
As Americans, we may never know the reason behind hate speech, but the question that will remain in our minds for years to come is this, “how can we end it”?