The web and social networks prove to be “a powerful weapon for spreading hatred, for polarizing and radicalising confrontation, a vehicle for misogynistic and sexist contents and they do not spare those who provide information, on the contrary”. This was stated by the president of the Giulia Giornaliste association and Paola Rizzi, who again this year took care of the Vox Observatory on rights, the monitoring centered on 46 profiles of journalists (23 men and 23 women) and on the analysis of the Twitter accounts of 12 tested. The main catalyst for mentions with negative ‘sentiment’ is a journalist, Selvaggia Lucarelli, who stands out in absolute numbers.
If we then divide the rankings between men and women, overall the profiles of men collect 77% of negative mentions, but women a little more, 82%. It is worth mentioning, to get a general picture also in the analogical world, the 2022 report of the Viminale on threats to journalists, which this year saw a significant drop in episodes, more than halved, but the percentage of target women has instead increased passing from 19 to 28% of cases.
The alarming figure, as emerges overall from the monitoring of the Map in all clusters, is the exponential increase in the amount of hatred circulating on the Net: “journalists together collect 78.42% of negative mentions. An impressive growth compared to 57% of the previous comparable monitoring, that of 2020”. And to think that we were then in the horribilis year of the pandemic. Now the pandemic, war, energy crisis seem to have created a deadly mix in the ‘sentiment’ that runs through the network and also the profiles of those who provide professional information, demonstrated even more in the data from the newspapers, where the percentage of negative citations stands at 87%.
In short, in the public space of Twitter, even before Elon Musk arrived to screw up protocols and codes of conduct and to ban journalists, information, probably also partly responsible for radicalized communication, increasingly acts as a catalyst for hatred digital. “This affects not only anchormen or anchorwomen, or stars of social networks, sometimes considered provocative, but also those who simply do their work in the field, such as RaiNews journalist Angela Caponnetto, at the top of the charts for percentages of negative mentions among women (91%), who have always been under attack for their information work on the landings of migrants. In conclusion, “if it is difficult to directly compare the data collected this year by researchers at the Aldo Moro University of Bari with previous , given that in the refinement of the study also the elaboration of the numbers changes, one thing is certain: it doesn’t get better. And this opens up a series of questions. Language not only tells about society, but it is an expression of it”, recall Garambois and Rizzi. What happens to us if the relationships around us turn sour to the point that the verbal exchange becomes increasingly violent?
“To face the hatred of the web, understood as a true cultural phenomenon even if all in the negative, the first answer is that of knowledge”. Silvia Garambois and Paola Rizzi affirm it ‘realizing’ (for example of the real damage that is done, even on a terrain that appears completely virtual) is in many cases a tool to stop profanity and insults. Universities are now dealing with this theme, there are courses, there are meetings, there are newspaper articles. There was an important appointment like the Segre Commission in the Senate, which dealt with the issue on a broad scale, also welcoming Giulia’s reflections on the damage caused to those who provide information, and above all to journalists.
But is it really enough to evoke censorship? “We continue to favor cultural confrontation, implementing where possible what is now called ‘counter-narrative’ among those who deal with these issues: responding civilly to the messages of the haters. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t, and all that remains is to delete the messages uncivilized, so as not to create imitators, and to denounce”.
On the other hand, it remains dangerous “to rely on algorithms that act alone: in a world that has even taught to write newspaper articles to machines – as we have read in recent weeks – the discernment and the limit between network meddlers and the risk of censorship becomes too much weak. Artificial intelligence is not so intelligent, if it still obscures Gustave Courbet’s painting “The Origin of the World” from the network, mistaking it for insane vulgarity”.
Likewise, the bad word itself is not always and not necessarily synonymous with hate. “The task of journalism is therefore in no way surpassed by the algorithm of platforms, but on the contrary it becomes increasingly indispensable to counter fake news, stereotypes and violence of language with a truly responsible and conscious use of words”. (Rossella Guadagnini)