Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz, researchers at the University of
Warwick, scrutinized every anti-refugee attack in Germany, 3,335
in all, over a two-year span. In each, they analyzed the local
community by any variable that seemed relevant. Wealth.
Demographics. Support for far-right politics. Newspaper sales.
Number of refugees. History of hate crime. Number of protests.
One thing stuck out. Towns where Facebook use was higher than
average, like Altena, reliably experienced more attacks on
refugees. That held true in virtually any sort of community — big
city or small town; affluent or struggling; liberal haven or
far-right stronghold — suggesting that the link applies
Their reams of data converged on a breathtaking statistic:
Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation
above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about
Could Facebook really distort social relations to the point of
violence? The University of Warwick researchers tested their
findings by examining every sustained internet outage in their
study window. German internet infrastructure tends to be
localized, making outages isolated but common. Sure enough,
whenever internet access went down in an area with high Facebook
use, attacks on refugees dropped significantly.