We first conducted a survey of the charity members of Charities Against Hate, their staff, supporters, service users and wider communities in September 2020. Our most recent survey was conducted between August and October 2022 and we had 210 responses.
67% of people who responded to our 2022 survey said that they work for a charity, with 22% volunteering for a charity and 14% being involved as trustees. 74% of those who work for a charity said that they used social media as part of their job.
The majority of respondents were aged between 25 and 44 years old (60%). 86% of people listed their ethnic group as white, and the majority lived in London (26%) or the South East of England (19%).
39% or people said they follow one or more charities on social media, while 45% said they donate to one or more charities. 11% said they get support from a charity or use their services.
92% of people told us that they use social media. Of those who listed a reason for not using social media, the most common was the perception that social media can often be an unfriendly or hostile place.
48% said they didn’t think it would be useful or enjoyable, while 17% were worried about being bullied or abused online or seeing offensive content. 10% said they didn’t think social media was the place for people like them, while 7% said they did not know how to use social media.
Facebook was the most used platform among respondents at 89%, with 77% saying that they use Twitter. 72% told us they use LinkedIn, followed by Instagram at 71% and TikTok at 23%. Just 6% said they use Snapchat. Since 2020, the biggest increase has been in those using Twitter, which was listed by 57% at that point.
81% of people told us they use social media to keep in touch with friends and family, with 62% saying they use it to stay connected in their community. 68% saying they kept up to date with news on social media. This tallies with wider reports that “social media is such an enormous part of daily life that consumers will still use it in spite of their doubts or reservations” and rely on it as a news source.
67% of people said they used social media as part of their job with 65% using it for entertainment.13% said they use social media as part of their volunteering work.
When asked about their overall experiences of online hate, 38% of people told us they had experienced it themselves, with 77% saying they had seen other people being targeted. 13% said they had never experienced or witnessed online hate.
“I wish I could stop using Facebook and Twitter because they are foul, hateful platforms, but I need them for work.”
Those working at charities and using social media as part of their job seem more likely to be exposed to online hate, with 44% saying they have experienced online hate themselves, and 84% saying they have witnessed it happening to other people. Two years ago, 61% of those working at charities said they had experiences online while working with their current organisation.
“It was targeted at the charity I worked for/people who worked there not me but I was the social media manager and monitored all the comments. It left me feeling anxious/angry at work and was hard to deal with/not take those feelings home from work.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly given that it was the most commonly used platform among respondents, Facebook also came out as the platform where most people had seen or experienced online hate, at 75%. Twitter came a close second at 74% followed by Instagram at 30%.
The largest proportion of online hate people had seen or experienced was around gender at 70%, followed by race or ethnicity at 69% and transgender or non-binary identity at 60% of respondents. 57% reported seeing online hate about sexual orientation with 44% saying disability and 42% saying religion.
Trolling was the most common type of online hate that people had seen or experienced at 85%, followed by very offensive posts or comments at 81%. This has changed little since our 2020 survey when both were also listed as the two most common forms of online hate, although the figures have increased in both cases since then when they were both cited by 61% of respondents.
“Seeing horrendous things being said online is something you can never unsee - it makes you worry for the sake of the individuals who are being targeted, and for society as a whole.”
Being bullied or witnessing it happening to others was listed by 72% of respondents. 22% of respondents in 2020 reported being bullied online.
61% of people said they had experienced or witnessed a targeted campaign of hate online (rising slightly to 62% of charity workers using social for their job).
Worryingly, 64% said they had seen or experienced threats or threatening language, which indicates an overall increase since our last survey in 2020, when 16% of people reported having threats directed to them personally and 26% said they had seen threats to a group or community they were part of. This year, 43% of people reported seeing or being targeted by words, images or videos that encourage people to be violent towards others, which again shows an increase from 2020 when 28% of people reported the same thing.
Being more open about expressing online hate also seems to an emerging trend, with just 3% of people reporting that the online hate they experienced or saw was private. 74% said it was expressed publicly.
Of all the people who had seen or experienced online hate, 80% said it makes them feel angry (up from 61% in 2020), 70% said they felt frustrated (up from 51% in 2020) and 66% said they were upset (again up from 47% in 2020).
"Hate crime hurts to the very core of your human being and identity."
Of those who had experienced or witnessed online hate 54% said it had a lasting impact, a slight increase since our last survey, when less than 50% said it had a lasting impact. Many people reported feeling unable to “be themselves” online or engage in community forums or local groups, with some mentioning feeling afraid for their own physical wellbeing or that of loved ones.
"I hide more. I cry more. I’m scared."
Of all our respondents, 77% said they had told someone else about online hate they had seen or experienced – with that figure rising to 84% of charity workers using social as part of their job. Overall, 78% of people told friends and/or family, with 54% reporting it to a social media company. 17% reported it to the police.
Just 21% said they accessed support to help them deal with online hate.
In 2020, 86% of charity supporters felt that charities should play a role in intervening in hate online, by moderating posts, removing offensive posts and countering misinformation by posting content. This year 80% of people said they think charities should report an individual who posts hate on the charity’s social channel, and 70% said the charity should address the issues raised by posting content to explain the truth. Just 4% said they don’t think they need to do anything, highlighting that it’s become more expected for social media accounts to be seen to respond and take action against online hate.
While our survey focused on people’s experiences of online hate, of course not everyone sees or experiences online hate and there were also comments from respondents about celebrating the positive side of social media. Reclaim Social is a campaign that aims to bring positivity back to social media, while this blog by Madeleine Sugden highlights how Twitter has been a force for good, a place for campaigns to gain momentum and has helped charities make an impact.
62% of people said that they use social media to stay connected to their community, which is encouraging for charities looking to build on localised audiences and networks. Conversely, when people feel unable to continue to use social media because of the hate their receive or see online, they can feel socially excluded and marginalised, which may also affect their professional opportunities.
It’s also important to realise that digital exclusion and perceptions can also affect how people interact online. 10% of people said they didn’t think social media was the place for people like them, which underlines the importance of making our online spaces accessible and equitable for all so that everyone feels welcome.
46% of respondents said that they use social media to speak up about social or political issues, and one respondent said that we need to “build on the social understanding that we can all be part of resolving this issue.” This is particularly important to remember when thinking about the current changes that are happening with Twitter – it’s only by being in that space that we can counter misinformation and provide a trusted source of support and information for those who continue to look for it.
Each individual charity will have their own experiences of online hate, both internally and among their wider audiences. Sharing those experiences and helping to share resources and ways of working can increase intersectional understanding of the challenges that particular charities or causes might be facing, as well as providing a network of support.
“Guidance from an outside perspective could help. Also, back up when hateful conduct begins to affect the charity. If this happened to a smaller charity, they may struggle to get the truth out there.”
Seeing what has worked for another charity in countering online hate, or worked to support their team, can help another charity who might be struggling with a similar issue.
A 2021 report from Ditch the Label showed that online hate speech in the UK and the US rose by 20% since the start of the pandemic. Our own survey shows that the numbers of people seeing or experiencing threats online has also increased. Online abuse is disproportionately targeted at certain groups, many of which are also supported by charities who campaign on their behalf. Amnesty International's research shows that black women are 84% more likely to receive abusive tweets than white women, while the 2022 Girls’ Attitudes Survey found that a quarter (26%) of girls aged 11 to 21 don’t feel safe online.
Staff working in social media at charities need to feel supported, not only to protect their own wellbeing, but so that they have the resources and skills to effectively combat online hate they may experience as part of their job and ultimately better support the communities they work with.
“It’s part of my job in comms to deal with social media so we are the direct recipients of the comments and need to compose responses back. It fills you with dread that if you post something significant, when the first message is going to come through, and will it stop at one message or will they target all channels and continue to engage.”
A recent #NFPTweetUp online discussion raised questions about the safety of Twitter as a space for both staff and charity audiences. According to the 2022 Charity Digital Skills report, 82% of charities view digital as more of a priority as a result of the pandemic, but 38% said upskilling staff and volunteers is the second greatest barrier to digital progress. 40% also said that they need funding for devices, software and infrastructure.
“If charities are left behind technologically, they are powerless to challenge big tech and support victims as best they can.”
The latest version of the government’s online safety bill has dropped efforts to regulate content deemed to be “legal but harmful”, which does little to reassure those working in social media to help support the most vulnerable in society. If government legislature cannot be relied on to provide protection, understanding the often long-lasting impact on staff of seeing and moderating online hate is vital for charities to feel able to invest finances in processes and technology to better support their teams.
We will be looking at existing resources and ways for those working at charities to access support in combatting and dealing with the effects of online hate. We can do this both by updating the resources we have already created as well as looking at other ways to upskill teams in practical ways to combat online hate and provide support for those dealing with online hate as part of their job.
Please do send us any resources that either you or your charity might have created to support your teams or those working in social media in the sector, or anything you’ve seen that you think would be helpful to others.
We’d like to thank everyone who took part in our survey, which helps to highlight the importance of working together to combat the effects of online hate.
Guide to best practice in ethical digital marketing & comms practices – this guide outlines ideas and recommendations for best practice in ethical digital marketing and communications for the third sector.
A wellbeing guide for comms professionals – a guide for anyone, whether you’re a sole communicator or you work in a team of twenty, whatever stage you are at in your career and with every organisation in mind.
Stop Hate UK – Stop Hate UK’s 24hr Helpline service provides a safe space for callers to talk about their experiences and help explain the options available and provide free, independent advice.
Ditch the Label – a global charity offering support for people aged 12-25 through some of the biggest challenges in their lives, from bullying and mental health to identity and relationships. Including a toolkit for dealing with online hate.