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According to new research, hate speech on the internet in both the US and UK has increased 20% since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Ditch the Label Youth Charity commissioned the research, which analysed 263,000,000 US and UK conversations from between 2019 and the middle of 2021.

The study found that 50.1 million people had discussed or used examples of racist hate speech during this time.

According to the report, these conversations spiked in response to major news events.

They included declarations by the World Health Organisation in March 2020 of the Covid-19 pandemic, protests by Black Lives Matter in June 2020, and the killing of Sarah Everard March 2021.

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Liam Hackett is the CEO of Ditch the Label and he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat the charity was overwhelmed by the increase in hate speech and internet abuse that occurred during the pandemic.

Extreme cases include death threats. A woman suffered abuse in real life that led to people coming into their homes and taking photos through her windows of her children.

Liam believes that the increase in the number of people locked up inside during the pandemic was due to the fact that they were trapped indoors.

Liam says that research has shown that bullies and trolls may actually have poor mental health. They may also have suffered trauma or been in abusive homes.

According to him, online abuse was triggered by boredom and the feeling that others didn’t have control over their lives.

Then, you add the fact that most people are very able to spend a lot of time and they get bored.

They feel they have no control over their life, and it can become a little bit of a storm.

Phoebe Jameson, a Bristol teenager aged 19, told Newsbeat that she was subject to abuse online daily during 2020.

“This continued to happen throughout the entire of 2020. She said that it reached the point when, since July 2020, I had not taken a week from any online abuse.”

“In the last few months, it has been every day that there have been an incident, some comment, or something.”

It’s been reported that online abuse rose during the pandemic, but why should this be any different?

Liam states, “Because they’ve normalized it and that’s part of the issue – this shouldn’t be considered a normal aspect of life.”

Ditch the Label is involved with the proposed government’s online safety bill. This includes a legal obligation for social networks, Liam states is “a step in the right direction”.

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However, he wants education to be better for all ages, starting early so that they can understand the consequences of online extremism and how to prevent it from happening.

Liam says, “There’s an enormous role for education. However, there is also a large societal effort to really campaign for change and stand against the normalization of this because it’s unacceptable.”

“And it can have very serious consequences for people.”

Liam said it was too early to determine if hate speech levels have declined in the UK following the end of lockdowns. But, Ditch the Label believes that incidents will not decrease.

“When we look at our mental health as a nation, it’s still in decline,” he said.

“People are facing new pressures and this is one way that they can get help.

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Source: BBC.com

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