Hierarchies of hate: Contextualising the role of media and technologies in disinformation and dehumanisation

Course Description:

Abstract: Social media are often accused of creating hate and disinformation, as if they, outside of their contexts are agentic in creating social conditions for dehumanisation. Collectively some media misrepresentations and the interactions that cohere around them form what has come to be known as the sphere of online hate and disinformation. Unquestionably, these tendencies are implicated in and part of material practices of discrimination and violence against marginalised groups. In this lecture we ask: Which groups are singled out for most online hate and what characterises these interactions and choices? Are global tech platforms controlling hateful disinformation adequately through algorithms and AI-based moderation? And is hateful misinformation largely a matter of media illiterate publics or is something more systematic going on? Connecting half a decade of empirical research into the circulation of disinformation and misinformation about minoritised and racialised groups in countries as disparate as Brazil, India, Myanmar and the U.K. with histories of misogynist, colonial and caste violence, this lecture examines the intersectional politics of hate online through close textual analysis and interviews with those who encounter most hate online. The underlying political economic and ideological roots of this avalanche of violent disinformation must be understood and subjected to critical analysis in order to move towards equitable and sustainable futures in the social and representational fields.

Bio: Shakuntala Banaji, PhD, is Professor of Media, Culture and Social Change and Programme Director for the MSc in Media, Communication and Development in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Professor Banaji’s research addresses the intersection between socio-political contexts, media, identities and participation. Her focus is twofold: first on the lives of children and young people in different geographical and class contexts, with a critical take on the ways in which rhetorical conceptions of citizenship, development, engagement and digital media construct the notion of agency, and position child and youth subjectivities. This work is currently tracing children and young people’s responses to climate crisis and disinformation worldwide. And second, on the ways in which historical propaganda and current misinformation, disinformation and hate speech are reconfiguring the public spheres of India, the UK and other nations. She has been teaching for 30 years, winning numerous awards including the fourth European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities, and the Diener Prize, awarded by Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. Professor Banaji is the author, co-author or editor of 6 books and over 70 papers and monographs, including Children and Media in India (Routledge, 2017) and Youth Active Citizenship in Europe (Palgrave 2020). Her book Social Media and Hate with Ram Bhat (Routledge, 2022) theorises the social and psychological repercussions of the landscape of disinformation and trolling in the U.K., India, Brazil and Myanmar with particular attention to the connections between contemporary and historical racism, discrimination, marginalisation and violence.

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