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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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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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