Kennesaw State professors launch social media research

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 12, 2019

Interdisciplinary undergraduate project examines hate speech online

A pair of Kennesaw State University researchers are developing a new study examining hate speech and imagery on social media using funding from a grant they received from Facebook.

The proposal submitted by Anisah Bagasra, assistant professor of psychology, and Burton Speakman, assistant professor of communications, was one of only 20 selected out of the 200 proposals submitted to the social media giant. Kennesaw State is the only university in Georgia to earn a Facebook grant this year.

A team of seven undergraduate students will work on the project – “Identifying and Examining Islamophobic Speech and Imagery” – under the guidance of the researchers, which will involve spending a year collecting and analyzing data gathered from Facebook. Students will be trained on what language and imagery to look for that contribute to hate speech online and learn how to identify it.

“We’re excited to offer research opportunities to our undergraduate students because we believe that it enhances their ability to think critically,” Bagasra said.

The two professors also are looking forward to working on a project that combines their areas of expertise. “I knew that I could help with the psychological aspects of hate speech but needed Burton to help with the social media aspect,” Bagasra said.

According to Speakman, social media can be powerful in shaping people’s attitudes. “That’s why this kind of project is so important,” Speakman said.

– Andrea Judy

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit