Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime

84 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017 Last revised: 8 Jun 2020

See all articles by Karsten Müller

Karsten Müller

Princeton University

Carlo Schwarz

Bocconi University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 5, 2020


This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime. We show that anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. To establish causality, we exploit exogenous variation in the timing of major Facebook and internet outages. Consistent with a role for "echo chambers", we find that right-wing social media posts contain narrower and more loaded content than news reports. Our results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism for violent crimes by enabling the spread of extreme viewpoints.

Keywords: social media, hate crime, minorities, Germany, AfD

JEL Classification: D74, J15, Z10, D72, O35

Suggested Citation

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime (June 5, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Karsten Müller

Princeton University

Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building
Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

Carlo Schwarz (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136

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