Hate Beneath the Counter Speech? A Qualitative Content Analysis of User Comments on YouTube Related to Counter Speech Videos


  • Julian Ernst Julian Ernst is junior researcher at the Chair for Intercultural Education, University of Cologne (Twitter: @JulianErnst91)
  • Josephine B. Schmitt Josephine B. Schmitt, PhD, is postdoctoral researcher at the Chair of Media and Communication Psychology, University of Cologne (Twitter: @JottBeEs)
  • Diana Rieger Diana Rieger, PhD, is postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Media and Communication Studies, University of Mannheim (Twitter: @DianaRieger79)
  • Ann Kristin Beier Ann Katrin Beier is a student assistant at the Chair for Intercultural Education, University of Cologne
  • Peter Vorderer Peter Vorderer, PhD, is professor at the Department of Media and Communication Studies, University of Mannheim
  • Gary Bente Gary Bente, PhD, is professor for Media and Communication Psychology, University of Cologne, and visiting professor at the Department of Communication, Michigan State University
  • Hans-Joachim Roth Hans-Joachim Roth, PhD, is professor for Intercultural Education at the University of Cologne.


hate speech, counter speech, user comments, qualitative content analysis, anti-Muslim racism


The odds in stumbling over extremist material in the internet are high. Counter speech videos, such as those of the German campaign Begriffswelten Islam (Concepts of Islam; Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2015a) published on YouTube, offer alternative perspectives and democratic ideas to counteract extremist content. YouTube users may discuss these videos in the comment sections below the video. Yet, it remains open which topics these users bring up in their comments. Moreover, it is unknown how far user comments in this context may promote hate speech—the very opposite of what counter speeches intent to evoke. By applying a qualitative content analysis on a randomly selected sample of user comments, which appeared beneath the counter speech videos of Concepts of Islam, we found that comments dominated, which dealt with devaluating prejudices and stereotypes towards Muslims and/or Islam. However, we also discovered that users in a large scale discussed the content of the videos. Moreover, we identified user comments, which hint at hateful speech either in comments themselves or the discourse the comments are embedded in. Based on these results, we discuss implications for researchers, practitioners and security agencies. 


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