Disinformation Campaigns and Hate Speech: Exploring the Relationship and Programming Interventions

Black and red keyboard
Publication Date: 
26 Apr 2019

Publication Type:

Author(s): 
Lisa Reppell and Erica Shein

In a new brief, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) outlines how the latest generation of technology-fueled disinformation campaigns is amplifying the scourge of hate speech and offers a framework for democracy and governance practitioners to consider when designing interventions to effectively counter these dual threats.

The calculated amplification of hate speech is only one of many tactics deployed in disinformation campaigns, but it is a common and highly toxic one worthy of particular attention. Disinformation Campaigns and Hate Speech: Exploring the Relationship and Programming Interventions builds on established IFES thought leadership on countering hate speech in political and electoral contexts (see Countering Hate Speech in Elections: Strategies for Electoral Management Bodies) to distinguish how hate speech and disinformation differ, and why that distinction matters for those looking to mitigate the harmful effects of both. Specifically, the brief asks three questions:

  • How is hate speech created and spread (its trajectory), independent of a technology-fueled disinformation campaign?
  • How does that trajectory change with the introduction of a disinformation campaign?
  • How does this altered trajectory impact the way that democracy and governance practitioners develop and deploy program interventions?

The modern disinformation problem presents a clear threat to the information ecosystems that underpin the health of democratic institutions and processes. The calculated amplification of hate speech is a particularly virulent tactic used by some disinformation actors to promote agendas that are antithetical to democratic values. While hate speech and disinformation are intimately related concepts, understanding the nuance and interplay between them is essential to designing responsive programming.