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Was 2021 the Beginning of a Reckoning for the Toxicity and Trolls Taking Over Social Media?


In 2021, social media saw continued growth but also a surge in online hate speech. Respondology's data reveals a significant increase in toxicity, with spam and bots invading brand feeds. Despite challenges, our technology saves clients time and combats online hate.

2021 saw no slowdown in the attention toward all things social media. Headlines ranged from  a Facebook whistleblower exposing their shortcomings in platform policing, to the explosion of TikTok, capturing more than 1 billion users.

However, and unfortunately, the undercurrent of online hate speech and toxicity, especially on social platforms, continued to weigh heavily in the headlines as well, ranging from celebrities and athletes from all sports including the Olympics being barraged with hate speech, to the UK’s football governing bodies staging an outright social media boycott, to municipalities around the globe actively prosecuting hate speech offenders. It was quite a year.

As we wade into 2022, these headlines are sure to spill into the current this new year, especially regarding social media toxicity. The reason is simple. The major social media platforms are still struggling to create and implement solutions that protect users from harmful content and comments. Brands are looking for ways to protect their reputations and their customers. Sports leagues and teams are looking to protect not only their brands, but their athletes, and make sure fans feel comfortable within the physical stadiums and on their social channels.

All of this concern is for good reason. Online toxicity is still out there and it’s growing – almost exponentially. The team at Respondology tracked data from the 2020 calendar year and compared it to the same data from 2021 and the results were astounding.

In 2020, we processed for our clients a little more than 13 million social media comments. In 2021, that number shot up to more than 41 million. The only glimmer of hope in the data is that the percentage of toxic comments hidden stay roughly the same, meaning that on aggregate social media HAS a lot more toxicity overall, but the rate of hate hasn’t grown as much.

One area of particular concern for our consumer brand clients is the rate that spam and bots are invading their social feeds.  In 2020, that was only 4.2% of what we hid, yet in 2021, it skyrocketed nearly 3x to 12.2%! Unfortunately for brands, included in that number as well, are consumers who turn to social media to denigrate the brand over customer service issues.

Looking deeper into our data, which tracks online hate speech and toxicity among our clients and corresponding trajectories, we see trends that indicate this type of abuse will continue. In reviewing some 41 million comments during the year, we hid a huge percentage – more than 4 million were either toxic or simply spam! The good news for our clients – we saved them a combined 102,500 human hours, where our technology took on the heavy-lifting. Our technology also freed up our client’s downtime as well, with 20 million of the comments reviewed and processed during nights, weekends and holidays.

As we begin another year, we continue to honor our mantra…”If the technology now exists to mute racism, anti-LGBTQ slurs and general hateful abuse online, then we have a responsibility to do just that.” We thank our entire client base for partnering with us on this quest to combat online hate, spam and toxicity. We shall continue to fight the good fight. #endonlinehate.

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