The widespread use of social networking platforms has facilitated enhanced communication between users and significantly influenced public opinion due to the vast amount of information readily available. Often, this information is shared anonymously and with immediate effect. Political figures have capitalized on this opportunity to engage with their audience directly, circumventing traditional media outlets. Their objective is to garner the attention of their potential voters by expressing their political perspectives on prominent issues and leaving a lasting impression on public opinion.
Like numerous other countries, Spain grapples with political polarization and heightened tensions among actors in the prevailing landscape. During the early 2010s, Spain witnessed a significant increase in politically extreme groups, such as Vox, contributing to heightened political polarization. Political agents utilize digital platforms as alternative venues to solidify their ideological stances, employing rhetorical tactics characterized by substantial emotional impact, disinformation content, and hate expressions against specific individuals or social groups. This approach perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes among message recipients by repeatedly employing denigrant language. This phenomenon happens in a fragmented multi-party system like Spain’s, which comprises an array of national, local, and regional actors, and where the traditional two-party system is losing influence, and such tactics have attained greater significance.
Digital platforms have emerged as the primary mode of interaction, facilitated by the echo chamber effect and homophily between users who typically engage in such scenarios. In these situations, political actors applied unidirectional communication to their voters. A form of communication that can involve the dissemination of disinformation and hate speech as tools for their rhetoric.
This blog entry is based on a research paper titled “Promotion of hate speech by Spanish political actors on Twitter”, recently published in Policy & Internet (P&I). The study examines the extent and nature of hate speech on Twitter, as expressed by the 16 political groups in Spain’s Congress in 2020. We recognize the limitations of the scope of the paper. However, it also has its usefulness in uncovering the tactics used by political factions to employ strategic rhetoric from micronarratives spread through posts published or posts shared in social media as X. These factions exploit ¨low intesity¨ (that do not break the laws) expressions of hatred aimed at specific social groups or political adversaries and propagate these sentiments among their supporters. Although the impact of hate expression may be negligible by now, it plays a role in desensitizing society to such expressions, ultimately fostering prejudices and stereotypes. This polarization and social unrest cultivate a conducive environment for extreme ideological ventures in Spanish society.
The paper “Promotion of hate speech by Spanish political actors on Twitter” builds upon previous research conducted by academic authors in Spain and other countries, as highlighted in this blog post. Moreover, it opens up new areas of inquiry, such as we are leading now through the Hatemedia project, where ‘anonymous users’ exhibit a similar inclination to disseminate low-intensity hatred towards specific opposing political groups through other influential social agents (e.g., users of digital news media on social media). The aforementioned raises the question of whether these actions are spontaneous, resulting from the escalating social tensions in Spanish society, or whether they are more deliberate, aimed at solidifying the normalization of the polarized climate promoted by political actors.
Note: the above draws on the author’s published work in Policy & Internet.
All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of Policy & Internet, nor the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney