New AU studies show link between social media, violence

Lance Hunter, Ph.D., associate professor in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social...
Lance Hunter, Ph.D., associate professor in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and the Masters of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies program, at Augusta University recently was part of the two studies.(Contributed)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 1:22 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Recent Augusta University studies show evidence linking social media to violence.

Lance Hunter, Ph.D., at AU recently was part of the two studies that show evidence linking social media to political violence including domestic terrorism and civil conflict.

The studies included over 150 countries and covered the time frame from 2000 to 2019.

“One of the things we found very interesting is the amount of time that people spend on social media on average within each country per year. It does matter in affecting the amount of domestic terrorism within countries,” said Hunter.

While many are focused on what happens domestically, Hunter found that some countries have more social media usage as compared to the United States and have varying amounts of political violence within their countries.

“When social media is dangerous is when it increases polarization. When it’s used to spread disinformation that disinformation can have a polarizing effect on citizens around the world and that polarization is associated with political violence.”

Even socio-economic factors can play a role in social media and its effect on people in a country.

“Looking at our research and data and looking across democracies and non-democracies, different income levels of countries most developed, less developed, we see there is a noticeable effect that social media can really influence political violence, especially if it’s used for disinformation purposes.”

He went on to add since their data ended in 2019, and there have been instances of violence in the U.S. since then, researchers may continue to speculate on the relationship between social media posts and acts of domestic terrorism.

In the past couple of years, some forms of social media have added a tag to note posts that have been fact-checked to be incorrect. Hunter thinks we could see more of this in the future since there are potentially harmful effects. One difficulty with this method could be the variety of platforms available and being used worldwide.