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Funding granted for online Brexit hate crime spotter
09 Feb 2017

Forces could receive a new tool for monitoring online hate crime after researchers were given £250,000 to study the impact of Brexit.

Experts from the University of Cardiff are developing a live feed showing how hate speech spreads on Twitter following “trigger” events like the decision to leave the European Union.

The number of racially and religiously-aggravated offences spiked 41 per cent in the month after the referendum on July 23 compared with the same period in 2015.

Professor Matthew Williams, principal investigator on the project, said many of these crimes are taking place on social media.

“Over the coming period of uncertainty relating to the form of the UK’s exit, decision makers, particularly those responsible for minimising the risk of social disorder through community reassurance, local policing and online governance, will require near-real-time information on the likelihood of escalation of hateful content spread on social media,” he added.

“This new funding will provide the system and evidence needed to achieve this.”

The group hopes its work, financed by the Economic and Social Research Council, will highlight areas in need of policy attention and improve interventions to stop the spread of hate crime.

The team will gather data over 12 months – starting from the referendum date – and will use machine learning technologies to classify, analyse and evaluate tweets in real-time.

They are working in partnership with groups including the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.

Dr Pete Burnap, computational lead on the project, said: “To date, the information available to government on topics such as hate speech around Brexit has been post-hoc and descriptive.

“What is needed are open and transparent methods that are replicable, interpretable and applicable in real-time as events are unfolding.”


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