Global Digital Media Cultures and Extreme Speech

Recent political upheavals in Europe and the US have once again highlighted the paradoxical nature of contemporary digital communication. The celebratory discourse of digital technologies’ potential for openness and democracy is now eclipsed by the ‘dark side’ of new media as a platform for promoting hate speech, fake news, terrorism, misogyny, and intergroup conflict. Researchers are confronted with a new lexicon of communicative tactics: ecosystems of fake news; disinformation campaigns; coordinated troll attacks; and targeted hacks aimed at influencing elections. Despite this heightened sense of urgency, these concerns are, however, by no means new or limited to the Western world. A cursory glance of many examples from the global south reveals a long-standing anxiety about the dangers of unbridled speech in situations where it can provoke ethnic religious conflict, mass violence and social unrest. In all the cases, digital media have also evolved into vibrant forums for political participation. Global Digital Media Cultures and Extreme Speech examines these ‘paradoxes’ of contemporary digital communication from a comparative perspective rooted in ethnography. We conceptualize this as ‘extreme speech’ to depart from the legal-regulatory terminology of ‘hate speech’ and examine this as a new form of digital culture.

Lead Researchers: Sahana Udupa and Matti Pohjonen

Lead Collaborators: Peter Hervik and Iginio Gagliardone


Apply by August 31, 2017 to attend a workshop on Global Digital Media Cultures and “Extreme Speech” from February 23-24, 2018 in Frauenchiemsee near Munich, Germany. Download the CFP here.


[2017] Extreme Speech Online: An Anthropological Critique of Hate Speech Debates. International Journal of Communication 11: 1173–1191. By Matti Pohjonen and Sahana Udupa

Project details


ForDigitalDignity Project ONLINERPOL
Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Oettingenstrasse 67
Munich 80538

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