The panel examines the significance of "extreme speech" in digital cultures across the world and its cultural, social and political implications.
The Snowden revelations signaled an emphatic challenge to the euphoric pronouncements on new media as radical enabler of citizen participation, democracy and openness. In its place, we have seen an increased focus on the "dark side" of internet freedoms: as a platform for promoting hate speech; right wing nationalist mobilization; intergroup conflict; and expanding government surveillance and censorship. Such "extreme speech," it is argued, now threatens many of the taken-for-granted freedoms commonly associated with digital media cultures across the world. While volatile speech restricts and even suspends open dialogue, it is also increasingly used by governments across the world to legitimize securitization and control over its citizens' communicative practices, often rhetorically justified by the fear of negative consequences of extreme speech. This panel brings together some of the latest empirically grounded case studies and theoretical reflections from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, to advance a critical anthropological discussion on the phenomenal rise of extreme speech in the digital worlds and its ramifications. Going beyond legal definitions of "hate speech" and narrowly constructed terrorism talk, we approach "extreme speech" as a digital culture that serves to reinforce differences and hatred between groups on grounds of religion, race, political ideology and gender, often with the overt intent to intimidate and agitate target groups and individuals. Panelists will explore the mediatized contexts of digital use and circulation, and the cultures of digital exchange and securitization to examine what this dramatic rise of volatile speech means for democratic dialogue and participation.