Shades of hatred online: 4chan duplicate circulation surge during hybrid media events


  • Asta Zelenkauskaite Drexel University
  • Pihla Toivanen University of Helsinki
  • Jukka Huhtamäki Tampere University
  • Katja  Valaskivi University of Helsinki



hate speech, duplicates, content circulation, hybrid media events, 4chan, /pol/


The 4chan /pol/ platform is a controversial online space on which a surge in hate speech has been observed. While recent research indicates that events may lead to more hate speech, empirical evidence on the phenomenon remains limited. This study analyzes 4chan /pol/ user activity during the mass shootings in Christchurch and Pittsburgh and compares the frequency and nature of user activity prior to these events. We find not only a surge in the use of hate speech and anti-Semitism but also increased circulation of duplicate messages, links, and images and an overall increase in messages from users who self-identify as “white supremacist” or “fascist” primarily voiced from English-speaking IP-based locations: the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. Finally, we show how these hybrid media events share the arena with other prominent events involving different agendas, such as the U.S. midterm elections. The significant increase in duplicates during the hybrid media events in this study is interpreted beyond their memetic logic. This increase can be interpreted through what we refer to as activism of hate. Our findings indicate that there is either a group of dedicated users who are compelled to support the causes for which shooting took place and/or that users use automated means to achieve duplication.

Author Biographies

Asta Zelenkauskaite, Drexel University

Asta Zelenkauskaite is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Drexel University, USA. Her research focuses on the dark participation online. Specifically, she is interested in automated and micro discourse practices to trace automated online influence. Her work is situated between information science and social science paradigms.

Pihla Toivanen , University of Helsinki

Pihla Toivanen is a doctoral candidate in language technology in University of Helsinki and has worked as researcher and technical assistant at University of Tampere and University of Helsinki focusing on computational methods in studying disinformation, counter-media and conspiracy theories in hybrid media events.

Jukka Huhtamäki, Tampere University

Jukka Huhtamäki, D.Sc. (Tech.), is a postdoctoral researcher at the Unit of Information and Knowledge Management at Tampere University. He develops computational methods to investigate and intervene in socio-technical phenomena in diverse research contexts, including computer-supported cooperative work, hybrid media, and organizing. His research interests include computational social matching, fluid organizing, and digital ecosystems. Jukka applies a variety of research methods, including computational social science, action design research, and experimentation to create new knowledge that is theoretically rich and that relevance in practice.

Katja  Valaskivi, University of Helsinki

Associate Professor Katja Valaskivi, is based in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is a media researcher who specializes in the circulation of belief systems and ideologies in the hybrid media environment with a focus on the technological conditions of meaning-making in the digital world. Valaskivi is the PI of the the Academy of Finland funded consortium Hybrid Terrorizing. Developing a New Model for the Study of Global Media Events of Terrorist Violence (HYTE 2017-2021), sub-project PI in Extremist Networks, Narcotics and Criminality in Online DarkNet Environments (ENNCODE 2020-2022) and leader of the Politics of Conspiracy Theories research project (SAPO, Helsingin Sanomat Foundation 2019-2020).




How to Cite

Zelenkauskaite, A., Toivanen , P. ., Huhtamäki, J. ., & Valaskivi, K. (2020). Shades of hatred online: 4chan duplicate circulation surge during hybrid media events. First Monday, 26(1).