A Forensic Interpretation of Hateful Micro-Speech Acts and Performative Modality in Facebook and Twitter during 2017 Election-Kenya
Keywords:Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis, online hate speech, Facebook and Twitter, micro-speech acts, modality
The increasing shift of human activities to online spaces in Kenya has resulted in the new behaviours among internet consumers. One such behaviour is the growing online public journalism phenomenon amid legal and regulatory gaps permeating expression of online hate speech rhetoric disguised as ‘politically correct talk’ which often goes unquestioned despite its injurious force and the potential to precipitate physical violence in the long run. To judge content as hateful, Kenya’s judicial processes rely the establishment of speech intention to hurt a legally protected entity. However, hate speech law enforcers lack skill and capacity to accurately determine the pragmatic force of hateful language. This article, which is a part of broad study that examined the discursive construction of online hate rhetoric, examines the injurious potential of online micro-speech acts and performative modality of selected Facebook posts and tweets constituting the day-to-day communicative practices online during the 2017 general election in Kenya. Working within forensic-based Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis (CMDA) framework, we analyse a purposive sample of 160 posts; FB (120) and Twitter (40) collected through online observation of Facebook groups and hashtags trending in Kenya between July and November 2017. The findings show how micro-speech acts and performative modality worked in service of aggressive ideology in the form of overt and covert appeals for collective prejudice against marked ethno-political out-groups. These insights are relevant for policy makers such as NCIC, KHR and CAK as well as the hate speech law enforcers especially National Police Service and prosecutors in understanding how certain commonsensical day to day online communicative practices yield pragmatic potential to propagate ideologically rooted culture of hate and violence in multi-ethnic cultural contexts such as Kenya.
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