Social Media and the Spread of Hate (SMASH): Examining Youth Exposure and Impact


In recent years there has been exponential growth of hate speech on social media consumed by children. While cyber-bullying has been widely studied, the effect of social media hate speech on children has been under-researched. In response, the School of Education and Information Studies, in partnership with the Organization for Social Media Safety, proposes the Social Media and the Spread of Hate project (SMASH) to study youths’ exposure and conception of hate speech on social media. SMASH would include a foundational study coupled with trans-disciplinary symposia. The project would 1) collect and analyze quantitative data on extent of exposure to hate speech from students in 40-50 schools (approximately 400 students in each school); 2) conduct a qualitative study at four Los Angeles area schools; 3) host informal symposia bringing together students, researchers, and scholars from different disciplines; and 4) share findings in publications, reports, and bulletins. Unlike the majority of studies, our approach will include direct contact with research participants; we will also consider differences between social media platforms and different categories of hate speech. SMASH results will lay a firm foundation for future studies investigating how social media hate speech affects youths’ mental and physical health and learning trajectories.


School of Education & Information Studies


Dean Christina (Tina) Christie, Professor Anne Gilliland; Professor Mark Hansen; Dr. Arif Amlani; Mark Berkman; Professor Tyrone Howard; Dr. Christine Ong

Dean Christina (Tina) Christie

Professor and Dean Christina (Tina) Christie (PI), SEIS: Dean Christie brings extensive skill and expertise in the area of program development and evaluation, focusing her research on understanding evaluation as a method for facilitating social change. She has served as a lead investigator on more than 30 grants and contracts totaling approximately $33 million to study education, child maltreatment, and health behavior programs.

Professor Anne Gilliland

Professor Anne Gilliland (co-PI), SEIS, Department of Information Studies: Professor Gilliland has extensive expertise in archival studies, digital media and working with K-12 students and teachers on the use of primary sources in the classroom. She has conducted and published several studies on digital archiving and analysis of Anti-Asian hate speech on Twitter during the COVID-19 pandemic and is the lead faculty member for the Ed&IS Minor in Information and Media Literacy.

Professor Mark Hansen

Associate Adjunct Professor Mark Hansen (co-PI and in-kind contribution), SEIS, Department of Education: Dr. Hansen will provide methodological expertise and will supervise graduate researchers carrying out the quantitative data analyses.

Dr. Arif Amlani

Dr. Arif Amlani (co-PI), Director of New Initiatives, SEIS: Dr. Amlani is responsible for conceptualizing and launching programs such as SMASH. He has a background in philosophy of education and curriculum development and brings with him program development expertise.

Marc Berkman

Marc Berkman (content advisor), Organization for Social Media Safety (OFSMS): Mr. Berkman is CEO of OFSMS, a recognized global leader on social media safety issues, and also has significant experience on hate speech concerns from his prior work as a senior Congressional policy advisor.

Professor Tyrone Howard

Professor Tyrone Howard (advisor), SEIS, Department of Education: Professor Howards’ research centers on race, culture, access, and opportunity for minoritized student populations. He is the Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in the School of Education and Information Studies and director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families.

Dr. Christine Ong

Dr. Christine Ong, Research Scientist, UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, & Student Testing (project director, CRESST): Dr. Ong has extensive experience working as a project director and researcher on a range of federal, state as well as community-based research efforts and evaluation studies exploring STEM education, early childhood education, teacher preparation and anti-bullying curricula.