Lens on Hate – Methods and System


ISD has developed a tracker that provides real-time updates about the online-mobilisation of hate actors across social media platforms, with a focus on the U.S. context. Our system is examining a constantly updated set of accounts and channels associated with hate actors across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit. Within this system we break hate actors down into a series of sub-categories based upon qualitative assessments of their primary ideological motivations, and use keyword classification to examine the topics of their online conversation.

Identification of entities:

These entities – channels, accounts, groups – are selected by ISD researchers who conduct ethnographic monitoring on these platforms. In turn, all entities are manually reviewed by ISD analysts to ensure they fall under ISD’s definition of hate as outlined below and sorted into different ideological cohorts, based on their self-identification, the predominant narratives shared in their messaging, and the ideologies espoused. It should be acknowledged that many of these entities cross multiple categories. ISD have conducted multiple rounds of manual vetting to ascertain the most accurate predominant cohort in which to place each entity.

Data Access:

For Facebook, we are drawing data about posts from public pages and groups via the analysis software Crowdtangle. In the case of Twitter, we are analysing the tweets and retweets from selected accounts through the Twitter API. On Reddit, we are scraping the threads and comments on selected boards. Lastly, we are scraping the comments from videos of selected hate actors from YouTube.


ISD has developed and is constantly updating keyword lists for a range of topics. These topics of interest may not in themselves be automatically hateful, but rather represent topics of discussion which are commonly focussed on by hate actors. Other themes may be monitored temporarily, based on political and societal developments in the U.S.

Privacy and Ethics:

The project follows the British Social Policy Association’s ethical research guidance – we adhere to the principle of informed consent and non-attribution. All data obtained for the project will be stored securely on our internal server. This project only uses public data, viewable and visible to any user of the Internet, and only collect data according to the developer policy and terms of access defined by each data source. Research conducted will be aggregated and anonymous: we will at no point identify an individual user or users. Where quotations are used as examples and elaborations, they were altered to maintain the overall meaning, but to prevent the retrospective identification of any user.

Defining Hate:

ISD understands hate to relate to beliefs or practices that attack, malign, delegitimize or exclude an entire class of people based in immutable characteristics, including their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Hate actors are understood to be individuals, groups or communities which actively and overtly engage in the above activity, as well as those who implicitly attack classes of people through, for example, the use of conspiracy theories and disinformation. Hateful activity is understood to be antithetical to pluralism and the universal application of Human Rights.