‘Geography of Hate’ Maps out Racism on Twitter

A group of researchers from the Floating Sheep project – who also mapped racist tweets surrounding President Barack Obama’s re-election – have geotagged racist and homophobic tweets in the United States and plotted them on an interactive map.

Students at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., looked at 150,000 geotagged tweets that contained slurs and were in North America between June 2012 and April 2013. The students read each individual tweet and manually coded the sentiment of each tweet to determine if the given word was used in a positive, negative or neutral way in a project called the “Geography of Hate.”

“The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically,” wrote Monica Stephens, a geographer at Humboldt State, wrote in an introduction to the map on the blog Floating Sheep. “As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different.”

“Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated,” Stephens went on to say.


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