Part 1: Monitoring Hateful Language in South Africa
Opinion: Caleb Gichuhi is a senior specialist at PeaceTech Lab. As South Africa geared up for the recent election (May 8), he and his team were monitoring and analyzing trends throughout the country to understand and offer insights on the potential relationship between hateful language on social media and instances of violence on the ground. This is part one of a deep dive into the findings.
Offline Activities and Online Conversation
Not surprisingly, the use of hateful terms on social media in South Africa often spikes following instances of violence on-the-ground. This held true when we spotted a sudden increase in the use of the term Makwerekwere.
Instances of xenophobic attacks in Durban towards the end of March that came after weeks of anti-immigrant rhetoric by South African politicians led to a massive surge in the use of the term in the days immediately after. However, just a few days later, the leader of the EFF political party held a public rally, condemning both the violence and the use of the hateful term — we noticed, in-turn, a gradual but significant decrease in the use of the term across social media outlets despite a few cases of violence that emerged in the following week. While the trend suggests a relationship between offline activities and online conversations, wider social-economic issues are also contributing to the increased use of the term.