A short excerpt from the article:
Twitter hashtags are used to categorise Tweets: they allow people to search for topics more easily. But they also communicate agendas and mobilise people into like-minded communities, so have become a popular form of politically mediated communication. In this article we show how groups with different politics negotiate the tensions between them through the interactions afforded by Twitter, and we examine the possibilities of challenging hate speech online.
The hashtag #stopIslam appears to be both racially motivated and critical of Islam. It has been used previously, particularly following terror attacks, to vilify Islam and Muslims. However, after the Brussels terror attack, on 22 March 2016, it came to our attention because of the large number of tweets using it to defend Islam. This response was also noticed by the mainstream media (CNN, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Washington Post) who reported on the hashtag trending. These media organisations tended to focus on the ‘counter-narratives’ about Islam reflected in the ‘twittersphere’, which often attempted to negate the relationship between Islam and terrorism. The prominence of these critical responses to #stopIslam, both on Twitter itself and within the mainstream media, raised questions for us about when and why counter-discourses about Islam and Muslims can gain a presence in the public sphere. We developed a project ‘Who speaks for Muslims?’, funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant, to explore how these Islamophobic messages played out online. Originally formulated to ask questions about self-representation and voice on social media, the issues it raises speak to growing concerns about the rise of right-wing populism, a surge in reports of hate speech, and the use of social media by white supremacist groups.
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