As a complicated, charged, and in many ways unprecedented election cycle comes to a close, presidential candidates continue to stoke a politically and socially divided country. The Trump campaign has been repeatedly called out for inciting violence that some fear may boil over should the election not swing in Trump’s favor. However, while not directly incited by Biden, the far-left has also seen a rise in violent language and memes associated with the Antifa and anti-police movements. As both sides dig in, often using entirely different political lexicons, one thing is clear: boiling political tensions have driven a rise in hostility, primarily through the internet.
Hostility has risen on the internet in 2020, period
As the prolonged pandemic lockdown has forced the general public indoors, folks have turned to digital spaces to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction with current events. Social media platforms have seen spikes in both general activity as well as problematic language. On top of that, social unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd, online racism against Asian Americans as a scapegoat for COVID, as well as sustained political tension along party lines has created the perfect storm for a rise in hostile, highly charged content. One particular result: firings over social media indiscretions–already a growing phenomenon in recent years–have become increasingly commonplace stories in the press as individuals and whole industries grapple with economic and political uncertainty.
It’s in our numbers too
As a company devoted to screening digital content, we’ve seen a distinct shift in our data during the coronavirus lockdown. Flagged content has risen across the board, reflecting a shift away from civility and professionalism moving toward a more gloves-off approach to posting public content. In the last year, flagged reports involving intolerance have risen from 1 in 23 (already a high ratio) to 1 in 20. Similarly, flagged reports for our violence/threatening language filter have jumped from 1 in 37 reports to 1 in 28. Users posting public content are caring less about what they say (or potentially who views it), which is troubling in the business sector considering that one in three employers have fired employees for social media content.
While it may be impossible to determine exactly how each environmental and political factor contributes to the matter, it is clear that political unrest surrounding the election cycle has thrived under the conditions determined by the pandemic. The long-term implications of this spike in content are yet to be seen. However, as social media platforms increasingly become valid modes of public record, the fallout–at least in the corporate sphere–could be bleak and long-lasting.