Summary of findings
The comparative analysis carried out between the pre-pandemic and pandemic period reveals a continuum regarding the content of the racist and xenophobic speeches. In this way, it is the structural character of racism in the Portuguese society, combined with the international political context, that created the necessary conditions for the normalization of hate speech. Simultaneously, the predominance of a liberal ideology in the European context, which shields itself behind the thesis of 'freedom of expression', also contributed to the normalization of online racism. In this context, the collected data shows that racist hate speeches are aimed at historically marginalized groups in the Portuguese society, especially the Black and Roma population.
The discursive violence exerted on black bodies reveals the perpetuation of colonial ideologies. Thus, the analyzed hate speeches present the following characteristics: a) extreme aggressiveness towards anti-racist activists; b) victimization of those who produce hate, reproducing the thesis of 'reverse racism'; c) legitimation of police brutality; d) 'civilized' versus 'primitive' dichotomy as a justification for excluding black people from the national imagination.
In addition to the racial hatred directed towards the black population, the research came across a deep anti-gypsyism. Thus, racist discourses aimed at Roma communities are perfectly normalized in practically all sectors of the Portuguese society and are built along these lines: a) alleged cultural and 'civilizational' incompatibility between this community and the majority of the society; b) blaming of the Roma population for the racist episodes reported by the media; c) Supporting of the confinement of these communities; d) prevalence of 'reverse racism'.
Refugees and Migrants
Other main targets of racial hate speeches are refugees and migrants from the African continent. Perceived as 'Muslims', the collected speeches reveal the existence of an ideological framework marked by a deeply rooted Islamophobia. The narratives against these populations have the following characteristics: a) openly declared Islamophobia; b) 'clash of civilizations', that is to say, incompatibility between 'the West' and 'Islam'; c) imminent danger of 'Islamization' of European societies; d) close relationship between refugees and 'terrorism' e) refusal to welcome these populations.
With the goal of mapping the profile of people who have been the target of online hate speeches, the project team prepared an online survey that was answered by 279 people. The main results are:
39% of respondents declared that they have been targeted with online hate speech, at least once;
The vast majority are people who identify themselves as women, namely 62.6% of respondents, belonging to the 36-50 age group
As for ethnic-racial belonging, 27.1% of the participants identify themselves as black Portuguese and/or black people of African origin.
47% of the attacks have a component of hatred in regard to ethnic-racial origin;
The most representative age groups are between 36-50 years old (37.8%), followed by the group immediately below (26-35 years old), corresponding to 30.2% of respondents;
77.6% of those questioned say that the racist attacks they were subjected to had an impact on their mental health, namely anxiety, feelings of impotence or fatigue (38.5%) or the development of counterattacks to the speeches that they were victims of (32.9%);
33.6% of respondents reported hate speeches resulting from interactions on digital platforms;
74.8% of respondents believe that the pandemic, generated by Covid-19, influenced the spread of hate speeches in the digital context.
The social media platforms with the highest incidence of reports of hate speeches are Facebook (37.3%) and the 'comment boxes' of national newspapers (19%);