New UN study finds that hate speech in Costa Rica grew by 71%
22 June 2022
A second study on hate speech and discrimination by the UN team in Costa Rica found that although there has been a general increase in hate speech in Costa Rica, there are certain groups more affected than others.
Over recent years, hate speech, stigmatization and discriminatory narratives started to surface on social media and beyond, increasingly creating a divide and toxic atmosphere in the country. Hate speech and discrimination grew by 71 per cent.
The new investigation on hate speech and social networks in Costa Rica 2021-2022 was conducted by the UN team in Costa Rica alongside the Digital Communication Observatory of the Communication Research Center at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), and COES, a data analysis company.
By leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based social media listening tools like Metrix Bi and Sprout Social, the analysis located more than 937,000 conversations that contained hate and discrimination speech from profiles and public pages on Facebook and Twitter.
The study showed that 77 per cent of the messages analyzed had the direct intention of offending, attacking, and violating other groups or people, which represents an increase of 8 per cent compared to the previous period. It was also found that men issued 64 per cent of all hate and discrimination messages.
Not only did these findings reveal the high prevalence and the mechanisms of online hate, but they also informed key axes of work for the newly launched Costa Rica Plan against Hate Speech and Discrimination, a nation-wide initiative aiming to raise awareness, educate and combat hate speech.
Such innovative partnerships have already led to concrete steps such as the creation of the first National Observatory on hate speech and discrimination in the region (with the University of Costa Rica) and the rollout of a national campaign to raise public awareness on inclusion, respect for diversity and the fight against hatred and discrimination, among many other actions yet to be rolled out.
Although these are not the most frequent in social networks, the growing trend of observation is alarming. Expressions of hate and discrimination on disability increased compared to last year’s report.
This investigation is part of the Costa Rica Plan Against Hate Speech and Discrimination, presented in 2021 by the UN and with the support of different sectors: the government, civil society, academia and people committed to the issue.
Allegra Baiocchi, the UN Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica, points out that it is essential to understand how they behave and what are the trends of expressions of hate and discrimination, but also to find solutions to protect the people most affected by these manifestations.
The analysis by areas made it possible to establish trends and, in its turn, manifestations related to each case, which will allow, according to the UN, the establishment of differentiated action strategies:
Politics and Elections: 350,000 conversations are linked to hate speech and discrimination. Attacks on candidates and parties represented 79 per cent of the total. Attacks on people for their ideological or political positions were 21 per cent. Media coverage triggers speeches (debates, network publications) and 29 per cent of all political conversations include negative speeches against the media: non-transparent and biased information are the main claims.
Sexual orientation: Almost 143,000 entries were registered. The normalization of offensive words is observed. Hate speech and discrimination related to male-male relationships represented 89 per cent. Messages arose due to diverse political agendas. Criticism of the Administrations that 'give priority to these issues over other more important ones'. Some messages have been detected that defend rights agendas with aggressive and offensive terms.
Gender: More than 125,000 conversations were related to hate speech and discrimination. They increased significantly between February and May, boosted by Elections 2022. In recent weeks, there was an impact on the coverage of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case. Strong attacks were detected against those who promote feminism, equality, and women's rights. Some aggressiveness is also observed in messages defending human rights positions.
Xenophobia: More than 112,000 conversations were related to hate speech and discrimination. Nicaraguans are the most affected. The reactions refer negatively to the access to health services and social assistance of migrant populations. There is a relation of discourses that link migrants with criminality. Non-direct expressions such as 'cuento chino' (a slang word for lie in Spanish) are observed, which associate people of a certain ethnic group with negative and degrading ideas. Frequent use of expressions such as 'I am not xenophobic, but…'.
Generational clash: About 92,000 entries were captured. Messages enhanced by the political situation: socioeconomic environment and human rights. Younger people tend to be more concerned about human rights and older populations about economic reactivation, which is also a cause for confrontation. Older people express that 'Young people demand privileges that they did not have before.' Young people express that 'The blame for the current situation lies with the older generations.' The use of words such as 'boomer,' 'roco', (a derogatory way of referring to elderly people in Spanish), or 'old' is detected.
Religion: About 53,000 entries were found. Messages appear to relate religion to politics. The idea persists that religion should not be mixed with politics. 82 per cent of the expressions used the term 'pandereta' (a slang term for 'a very religious person or highly religious person', in Spanish) and 7 per cent “atheist”. Frequent use of expressions such as 'If you believe in God, you cannot think and act that way' and words like 'pandereta, atheist, corrupt or disgusting'.
Racism: About 34,000 entries were registered. Attacks on influencers who advocate for human rights are detected, referring to the fact that 'now everything is racism'. The highest volume of conversations occurs when the media publishes about Afro-descendants. Although expressions such as 'Working as a black' persist, a decrease in discriminatory colloquial phrases are perceived. Messages are perceived where people associate crime with the province of Limon and Afro-descendants.
Disability: About 26,000 conversations were detected. Pejorative terms to refer to people living with disabilities, such as 'retarded', are identified to insult or refer to someone, even themselves when a mistake is made. Looks like he has a disability is a catchphrase for criticizing. Use of words related to mental disorders, such as 'bipolar' to discredit or insult.
As mentioned, this study was the second investigation of these trends by the UN team in Costa Rica. To identify the more than 937,000 entries, groups of words were identified in public profiles and Facebook and Twitter pages that were categorized through AI software, to geolocate them and classify them by age and gender. Subsequently, the information captured was processed through other computer tools to graph and visualize. The analysis period was from 1 May 2021 to 15 June 2022.
Joining forces to end hate speech
The UN in Costa Rica and the Costa Rica BAR Association also presented a legal guide to prevent and eradicate hate speech and discrimination. The guide consolidates local laws and democratic tenets. It is structured in short segments of easily-accessible information with a scope of possible actions, from academic research to legal enforcement, including human rights protection mechanisms.
The guideline is part of the plan of Costa Rica against hate speech and discrimination presented in 2021 by the UN and includes at least 8 areas of address, which has been elaborated in a joint effort between academia, civil society, professional entities, the government and the UN.
For further information, please contact: Danilo Mora, Communications/Advocacy - UN Costa Rica; Telephone: 506 8834 3028; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The adapted version of this press release was produced with editorial support from the UN Development Coordination Office, with special thanks to our colleagues from the UN team in Costa Rica for the materials and information provided.