IEEE CS Digital Platforms and Societal Harms Event Seeks to Combat Growth in Online Hate Speech

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 09/12/2023
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Combating online hate speechDuring IEEE Computer Society’s 2022 Tech Forum on Digital Platforms and Societal Harms, Forrest Shull, 2021 IEEE Computer Society President, stated: “Hate speech is not a new issue for us. It has been around probably as long as the written word. But at the same time, the scale and scope, the reach that it has, the level of impact, is something that is very new.”

According to Canadian Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, who co-chairs the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism and participated in the 2022 Tech Forum, hate speech in the digital world has become a serious situation. As he stated, “Online hate has tangible consequences in the real world. Hatred that starts online can spill out to physical threats and violence.”

And we’ve already seen this happen. The apparent correlation between online hate speech and physical hate crimes is troubling. Case in point, Facebook removed a record number of more than 31 million pieces of hate speech from its platform between April and June of 2021. That same year, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations saw a corresponding rise in hate-related crimes. Reported hate crimes rose 25 percent from 2020, to a record level of nearly 11,000 incidents the next year.

It’s why Shull, Housefather, and other technology leaders took part in the Tech Forum on Digital Platforms and Societal Harms in the first place. And it’s why key stakeholders from around the world will be participating this year, when it convenes 2-3 October 2023, in Washington, D.C. The event will further the discussions around online hate speech on digital platforms and how best to mitigate it to reduce further harm.

Because, as Housefather said, “Social media platforms either can’t or won’t keep up with the tactical evolution of bad actors. At the moment, platform intervention is a whack-a-mole of ad hoc content removal, followed by tactical evolution and circumvention… Proactive policy making is essential for effective action against online hate speech. We need to address hate speech in a holistic manner across policy areas with legislative leadership.”

Shull agreed but pointed to the fact that a lot of the issue has to do with the underlying systems and the computing and networking that goes into the platforms. In order to better manage the proliferation of abuse online, it is imperative that the system issues are addressed—by leaders in technology.

“The good thing about this—and for the IEEE Computer Society—is that these are engineered systems and we, as engineers, can make deliberate choices about the way they are engineered, hopefully to increase the good effects and decrease some of the misuse or bad effects we see,” Shull contended.

While current trends indicate there is much more to be done in this area, this year’s Tech Forum will help to move forward new information and ideas to combat online hate speech and its effects. Over a period of two days, attendees of the 2023 Tech Forum will be able to explore societal harms through plenary panels, group discussions, workshops, software demonstrations, and more.

This year’s hate speech panel, which can be attended in-person or online (including on demand anytime in October via recording), will be moderated by Prof. Nathalie Japkowicz from American University and will feature:

  • Yael Eisenstat, Vice President at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and head of their Center for Technology and Society
  • David Matas, an International Human Rights Lawyer from Canada
  • Dr Joel Finkelstein, founder of the Network Contagion Research Institute
  • Dr Rosalie Atie, Project lead for the Australian Government’s National Anti-Racism Framework at the Australian Human Rights Commission

For a taste of our panels, which bring together experts working on the problem from the perspective of AI, technology, government, and public policy, consider remarks from last year’s influential speakers:

  • U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
  • Inbal Goldberger, Vice President of Trust & Safety at ActiveFence

For more information or to register for this year’s event (either in person or online), visit