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New research centre to focus on misinformation and hate speech online

A new research centre looking at the impact of social media on the spread of misinformation and the rise of hate speech and incivility has been launched by Loughborough University.

The Online Civic Culture Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) is being led by Professor Andrew Chadwick from the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture in the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences. It features an academic team drawn from the disciplines of communication, information science, social psychology and sociology and includes scholars from the Centre for Information Management in the School of Business and Economics.

Through funded PhD studentships it will examine whether the features of social media that enable people to express themselves, exchange opinions, coordinate with others, and rapidly circulate and recirculate messages also encourage the dissemination of false information, incivility, and hatred.

The first research projects will look at the cultivation of hatred online; incivility and emotions in policy discussions on social media, for example, climate change, health care and housing; and correcting misinformation and disinformation on social media.

Speaking about the new Centre, Professor Chadwick said: “Across the world, we face fundamental questions about how the routine use of social media is reshaping the civic cultures of democracies. 

“Online civic culture refers to the social norms that people use when they interact with other people online. Are people civil, tolerant, not using personalized insults or remarks that discriminate against others based on their race, sexuality, or nationality? Do people tend to use misinformation and unsubstantiated rumours of the kind that undermine rational political debate? How can we encourage people to uphold positive civic values when they go online?

“Through the CDT we will be applying cutting-edge concepts and methods from social science and information science to examine these key issues.”

The Online Civic Culture Centre for Doctoral Training has been funded by Loughborough University’s Adventure Research Programme. It is one of three new CDTs to be supported by the programme.

If you are interested in applying for one of the funded PhD studentships please visit the website.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 18/46

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