Increased Facebook Use Blamed For ‘Attacks’ on Migrants in Germany

In this photo illustration, logos of the Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, Instagram and LinkedIn applications are displayed on the screen of an Apple iPhone on May 12, 2018 in Paris, France. Faced with the anger of dissatisfied users, the Snapchat application has canceled certain changes, announced at the end of …
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A new study from the University of Warwick has reported German cities and towns which use the social media platform Facebook more than average are far more likely to see “attacks” against asylum seekers.

The researchers of the study claim that violence toward migrants is much more likely in areas where Facebook use is prevalent and that there is a direct correlation between the nearly 3,400 or so violent attacks against migrants over the last two years and increased use of the platform, Der Standard reports.

In the 44-page report, authors Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz claim “results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism between online hate speech and real-life violent crime.”

The authors counted 3,335 “anti-refugee incidents” with the vast majority, 2,226 incidents, involving some type of property damage to an asylum centre. Assaults made up 534 incidents and arsons 225. The pair also included 339 “anti-refugee demonstrations” in the tally.

Statistics from Germany’s Interior Ministry released in 2016 revealed the vast majority of “attacks” on asylum homes were so-called “propaganda offences”, or acts of vandalism — which can be as simple as leaving a sticker on a wall that someone else finds offensive. The report also highlighted the fact that asylum seekers and illegal immigrants were committing a far larger number of crimes themselves, compared to their proportion of the total German population.

Also pointed out is the fact that the anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany has one of the largest followings on Facebook among Germany’s political parties, with their official page having 415,000 likes, compared to the Facebook page for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with 181,000.

In the conclusion of the paper, the authors commented on proposals for governments to regulate hate speech on social media saying, “Such legislation may come at a high price: since the lines between what constitutes free speech and hate speech are blurred, it can open the door for blanket censorship.”

Regardless, they continued: “Our work does, however, suggest that policymakers should not ignore online hate crime at their peril. It remains for future research to demonstrate effective ways to tackle online hate speech.”

So far Facebook has declined to comment on the study, although a spokeswoman from the company emailed the New York Times saying, “Our approach on what is allowed on Facebook has evolved over time and continues to change as we learn from experts in the field.”

Two journalists from the NYT claimed to back up aspects of the study when they visited the town of Altena in North Rhine-Westphalia where a fireman had attempted to set the roof of an asylum home on fire and where, in November of last year, the town’s pro-migrant mayor Andreas Hollstein was stabbed.

The fireman who attempted to set the fire in the asylum home was shown to have been highly active on Facebook, posting numerous anti-asylum seeker posts.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)




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