Assessing Hybrid Identities in Online Extremist Communities through sociolinguistic styles

Shengnan Liu

Psychology, Lancaster University

Style-shifting has been the focus of language variation and change in sociolinguistics since

1960s. As sociolinguistic styles are sensitive to social change (Ure, 1982), it is not surprising

that they have become a focus of social psychologists who seek to assess social identities

through linguistic styles. ASIA (Automated Social Identity Assessment toolkit) (Koschate et

al., 2021), a toolkit which leverages machine learning and natural language processing to

automatically assess which identity is situationally salient through sociolinguistic styles, has

been proven to be successful in assessing feminist and parent identity in Reddit and Mumsnet

online communities. Cork et al (2022) has applied ASIA to assess entrepreneur and libertarian

identities. With an interest on the recent rise in online influence of hybrid communities which

are characterised by ideological mutations, this study investigates the dynamic nature and

influence of hybrid eco-fascist identities. It trains and validates an ASIA model to

automatically assess which identity (eco or fascist) is situationally salient. This allows us to

examine the dynamic interplay of these identities over time, and the role that linguistic style

plays in the expression of the ecological and the fascist identities in eco-fascist movements. To

train the model, the study used Reddit data form environmental and far-right forums that were

publicly available for the period 2016-2020. Once trained, ASIA was applied to public data

from Reddit eco-fascist forums. Topic modelling and corpus linguistics analysis are then

adopted to validate the results produced by the ASIA model. The results demonstrate that 1)

social linguistics styles can indeed be used to detect and assess hybrid identities, 2)

interdisciplinary research on hybrid identity assessment provides new methodological and

theoretical insights to social psychology, sociolinguistics, and computational linguistics.

Week 9 2022/2023

Thursday 8th December 2022