Like, Comment, Discriminate: Racist Discourse on Dutch Instagram

Social media is becoming an increasingly toxic space for young people in general and for people of color in particular. Most of us agree that we need to put a stop to the normalization of racist content and create a safer, more inclusive online environment for all. But how can we effectively do so?

The Sharing Perspectives Foundation and Build Up believe the answer lies in dialogue. By engaging in open and honest conversations and by posting alternative, unifying narratives, we can foster empathy and understanding while dismantling harmful beliefs and stereotypes. This theory forms the foundation on which we build The Digital Us: an online training program designed to empower young people to intervene in racist discourse on social media.

The Digital Us brings together people who have experienced racism online with those who have not. It offers young people a safe online space to engage in conversations around topics such as ethnicity, representation and privilege. Together, they learn how to best go about intervening in racist debates. Bystanders become upstanders, and the burden of addressing online racism is no longer solely on the shoulders of its victims.

This week is an exciting week for The Digital Us as the first group of participants will embark on their learning journey. To be able to guide them not only on how to intervene but also on where to intervene, we carried out a social media analysis. The findings of this research, which focused on Dutch Instagram, unequivocally reaffirms the relevance and importance of The Digital Us, with nearly 4% of the 309,083 comments in our dataset found to be likely racist.

The social media analysis also provides us with valuable insights, including:
– National news media attract the largest number of racist comments;
– News reports about crime are the most common and also attract the most racist comments;
– A disproportionate number of racist comments are posted under messages about Islam;
– Each type of racist commentary follows specific discursive patterns.
For more findings, check out the full report.

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