Xenophobic and Homophobic Attitudes in Online News Portal Comments in Malta

Authors: Stavros Assimakopoulos, Rebecca Vella Muskat

Corresponding: Stavros Assimakopoulos (stavros.assimakopoulos@um.edu.mt)

Keywords: critical discourse analysis, online com- ments, xenophobia, homophobia, hate speech

Doi: http://dx.medra.org/10.7423/XJENZA.2018.1.04

Issue: Xjenza Online Vol. 6 Iss. 1 - September 2018

In this paper, we present part of the re- search carried out at the Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology of the University of Malta under the auspices of the EU-funded C.O.N.T.A.C.T. project1. The present study, which followed the common method- ology of the C.O.N.T.A.C.T. consortium, focuses on the verbal expression of discrimination in Malta. Employ- ing both quantitative and qualitative methods, we seek to identify the extent to which comments posted online in reaction to news reports in local portals can be found to encompass discriminatory attitudes towards two tar- get minorities: migrants and members of the LGBTIQ community. The obtained results indicate that, while both xenophobia and homophobia can be detected in some of the comments, the former is a much more pre- valent than the latter. In an attempt to further probe into the reasons for the emergence of such discrimin- atory discourse online, we additionally administered an online questionnaire and conducted focus group inter- views, which provided us with some insight as to why discriminatory attitudes appear to have recently been on the rise in relation to migrants, while, at the same time, have correspondingly been contained in the case of the LGBTIQ minority group.

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