Incitement to Kill: Tracking hate speech targeting Ukrainians during Russia’s war in Ukraine
This research examines the use of hate speech and national slurs to dehumanise, call for violence against, and celebrate the death of Ukrainians. The data analysed indicates widespread hate speech targeting Ukrainians primarily on Twitter and Telegram. Further examination of these accounts indicates the content was further spread to YouTube and Facebook.
The research was accomplished by analysing data collected from Twitterand Telegram based on national slurs referencing Ukrainians in the context of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The dataset collected and analysed in the research resultedin 1585 accounts with more than 2500 interactions from Twitter, and 15655 results from more than 480 channels on Telegram.
This analysis shows that incomparison to prior years, February2022 saw a surge in the use ofnational slurs and hate speechagainst Ukrainians on both Twitterand Telegram.
Twitter accounts that were found to be using hate speech against Ukrainians include accounts that are verified with a blue tick. Many of those accounts also post content heavily supportive of Russia, stoking divide within US audiences, targetingthe LGBTQI+ community and sharing memes and messages related to conspiracy theories such as biolabs in Ukraine, QANON and issues related to Donald Trump.
The accounts analysed on Telegram include channels that took videos of Ukrainian funerals, or from Ukrainianswho had visited graves, and reposted them with degrading and dehumanising comments. Other channels specifically focus on looking for dead or captured Ukrainians and celebrating the circumstances around that imagery. The content circulated in these channels was reposted on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Further research indicates theincrease and gravity in the use ofhate speech language by Russianpoliticians, Russian state-linkedmedia and pro-Russianpropagandists calling for (further)violence and celebrating the deathof Ukrainians.
The phrasing and language seen in the content uncovered in this research can be compared to similarities in language used in other scenarios where hate speech has incited and/or fuelled violence. Historically, hate speech has been used to justify, incite and fuel violence against groups, minorities and ethnicities such as in the Holocaust, by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, in Rwanda against the Tutsi people and in Myanmar againstthe Rohingya.
The systematic and widespread useof dehumanising language andnational slurs against Ukrainians seenin this research is further fuelledthrough the spread of major socialmedia platforms, who each havetheir own policies in place to combatthis type of widespread activity.
The findings of this research help to make more informed opinions at a policy level for social media platforms in dealing with hate speech targeting Ukrainians, understanding of the terminology used on a systematic level, and outlines the clear widespread level ofdehumanising language that supports Russia’s war in Ukraine.
This research on the use of hate speech and dehumanising language in reference to Ukrainians should be taken in context with the evidence ofRussian forces committing acts against Ukrainians such as beheadings, castrations, ethnic cleansing, torture and the overwhelming use of military forces through the bombing of schools, hospitals, energy sites and other infrastructure as seen on the EyesonRussia.org map.