Given the recent rise in online hate targeting immigrants, this study examined factors that bring individuals into virtual contact with such material.
The increasingly prominent role of the Internet in the lives of Americans has resulted in more people coming into contact with various types of online content, including online hate material. One of the most common forms of online hate targets immigrants, seeking to position immigrants as threats to personal, national, economic, and cultural security. Using recently collected online survey data of American youth and young adults, the current study drew on insights from Routine Activity Theory and Social Structure-Social Learning Theory to understand exposure to anti-immigrant online hate material. Specifically, the study considered how online routines, location in social structure, and social identity were associated with exposure. Results indicate that engaging in behaviors that can increase proximity to motivated offenders increases the likelihood of being exposed to anti-immigrant hate, as does engaging in online behaviors that bolster one's target suitability. Also, individuals who view Americanism as fundamental to their social identity are more apt to encounter anti-immigrant hate material on the Internet, as are those who are more dissatisfied with the current direction of the country. (publisher abstract modified)