Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Faculty Member Selected as Belfer Fellow

Lucy Greenberg

November 22, 2022

Erik Bucy will work with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to investigate visual forms of hate on social media and mainstream news.


Texas Tech University faculty member Erik Bucy will be researching the intersection of technology and civil rights as one of three newly appointed Belfer Fellows. The Belfer Fellowship program was created five years ago by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to promote awareness of cyberhate and digital citizenship. After a competitive selection process, Bucy was selected as one of the researchers for the coming year. He will be joined on the project by Dhavan Shah from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

In a digital landscape increasingly saturated with misinformation and animosity, this research is critical. Due to the rise of digital literacy, forms of hate already present in society can now spread easier and more quickly than ever before. 

Bucy will work with colleagues at both Texas Tech and UW-Madison to develop a machine classifier that tracks hate symbology using computer algorithms. The researchers hope the information collected can better allow journalists to report what they're seeing as they cover stories. While intent is difficult to prove in many contexts, with quantitative information as to the percentage of hate symbols identified, perhaps journalists and the public can be better informed and empowered to think critically about reports. 

Media are encouraged to contact Bucy for further discussion on how the public can practice healthy news consumption and better identify hate symbology, whether intentional or passed along benignly. 

Erik Bucy


Erik Bucy, Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor of Strategic Communication, (806) 834-3346 or erik.bucy@ttu.edu 

Talking points

  • Bucy's research focuses on visual politics; nonverbal communication and how nonverbal cues impact the outcomes of elections.
  • High profile individuals are often treated differently when they engage in devisive speech and behavior. While many celebrities and athletes lose endorsements (recent examples in the news such as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving), politicians do not often face these social and financial consequences.   
  • Bucy focuses his research on the typical audience member who, in general, is not overly attentive to the news or politics but makes their assessments about events through information gleaned largely from mass media. 


  • “A goal of this research is to establish an empirical foundation for making recommendations to policy makers, news managers and social media companies on ways to reduce the circulation of hate symbols, even unintentionally, within the digital media sphere. With this project, we hope to make online spaces safer places to visit and share perspectives and ideas.”
  • “One aspect of symbol detection that often flies under the radar is the unintentional amplification of hate symbols in the news by media organizations covering events such as protests, marches or political rallies. In the process of airing footage of certain events, symbols might be shown that denigrate targeted groups and serve as potential recruiting devices for extremists. This is why it's important to look at both social media and mainstream news.” 
  • “The resources provided by Texas Tech have allowed me to pursue an impactful research program in visual politics, misinformation and news literacy. This is exactly the kind of work that can provide a meaningful contribution to society.”