Screen Readers Skip to Content

Online Hate Speech Often Hidden in Plain Sight

Author: Anglia Ruskin University
Author Contact:
Published: 3rd Feb 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: Physical and Verbal Abuse Publications

Summary: Research reveals scale of online hate speech may be worse than previously thought due to implicit ways some content is phrased.

Main Document

Covertly Communicated Hate Speech: A Corpus-Assisted Pragmatic Study - Journal of Pragmatics.

New research indicates that the scale of online hate speech may be worse than previously feared due to the implicit ways some content is phrased.

The study, led by Dr. Vahid Parvaresh of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), found that most posts that meet the description of hateful content do not contain overtly derogatory words or expressions. Instead, hateful sentiments are frequently conveyed through covert or modified wording.

This inventiveness exhibited in the subtle uses of language to express hate online is, in many cases, believed to be a conscious act designed to lower or remove the risk of detection, in the same vein as the much more blatant practice of inserting intentional typos into disparaging comments.

The findings, published in the Journal of Pragmatics, are informed by instances of online hate speech directed at Afghan nationals in the comment sections of 58 Instagram posts between 2019 and 2021.

Each post was specifically selected for a news item about Afghanistan or the Afghan people, who have recently experienced one of the world's most extreme displacements.

Meta, Instagram's parent company, says it uses artificial intelligence to detect the spread of online hate, with unclear cases referred to review teams. On its platforms, hate speech is defined as a:

"direct attack against people - rather than concepts or institutions - based on what we call protected characteristics: race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, and serious disease."

Despite this, the study contains numerous examples of comments that, while free of markedly hateful expressions, are unarguably discriminatory against the targeted person. Such posts, translated from their original language, include:

"If you are that unhappy, why don't you pack up your stuff and just go back? Every day there are more of you. Thanks to you, there is not even a single house available in the villages and on the outskirts of the towns. You make a lot of money and then keep nagging. If you are so unhappy, stay in your country and make it better."


"With so much tragedy and war, how come Afghans have not died out yet? :-) :-) !

The study's author, Dr. Vahid Parvaresh, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

"Due to the availability and spread of computer-mediated communication, instances of hate speech have been on the rise. This continues despite varying levels of intervention from social media companies and governments worldwide."

"It is especially true for more innovative and creative ways of expressing hate. These covert methods allow haters to avoid online detection, and the primary motivation behind my research is to raise awareness of this fact.

"To tackle hate speech, more attention needs to be paid by all stakeholders-to covert and implied ways of expressing hate."

References and Source(s):

Online Hate Speech Often Hidden in Plain Sight | Anglia Ruskin University ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

Post to Twitter Add to Facebook

Latest Physical and Verbal Abuse Publications

The above information is from our reference library of resources relating to Physical and Verbal Abuse that includes:

Neuroscientific Evidence Important for Rape Trials thumbnail image.
Victims of sexual assault are often blamed for not fighting or fleeing their attackers and 70% report being frozen during the ordeal, and unable to move or cry out.
Publish Date: 23rd May 2023
Online Hate Speech Often Hidden in Plain Sight thumbnail image.
Research reveals scale of online hate speech may be worse than previously thought due to implicit ways some content is phrased.
Publish Date: 3rd Feb 2023
Moderate Intoxication Does Not Impair Sexual Assault Recall thumbnail image.
Women can recall details of sexual assault and rape with accuracy, even if they have drunk, or expected to drink, moderate amounts of alcohol.
Publish Date: 1st Feb 2023 - Updated: 3rd Feb 2023

1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Gender Terms
Definitions of gender related terms.

5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?

• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.

• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.

• (APA): Anglia Ruskin University. (2023, February 3). Online Hate Speech Often Hidden in Plain Sight. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from

• Permalink: <a href="">Online Hate Speech Often Hidden in Plain Sight</a>