D6.3 | June 2023

Authors: Isabel Holmes – Brunel University London, UK

Marcus Nicolson, Himanshu Sharma, Amrullah Haleemi – Glasgow Caledonian University, UK

This report presents an analysis of polarisation in online debates. It seeks to unpack the ways through which toxic tweets can stimulate polarisation. Specifically, we trace communication patterns on Twitter to examine levels of toxicity in online exchanges related to the three themes: climate change, Covid-19, and immigration. We used the google-generated Perspective API Toxicity tool to conduct an analysis of the perceived toxicity levels of tweets from both pro-and anti- faction groups within these thematic categorisations. An initial analysis reveals that the most toxic tweets identified were related to the issue of immigration, with strong overlaps to debates surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccination. Accordingly, we proceeded with an analysis of the dataset to open a wider academic discussion of the links between toxic tweets, polarisation, and potential for radicalisation. These findings are related to a discussion of ontological security, which is a theoretical perspective that can help us begin to understand the rationale that may lead users to engage in toxic tweeting. The report concludes with a summary of these theoretical conclusions on the significance of social media for viewing polarisation and political ideologies.