U of U study shows spike in anti-Asian hate tweets after COVID pandemic

SALT LAKE CITY – Anti-Asian tweets rose across the United States in the first year of the pandemic, according to research from the University of Utah.

The study found that anti-Asian hate language increased between January and March 2020 in the United States

He identified two indicators of spikes; the first at the end of January when COVID-19 arrived in the United States and the second in mid-March when President Donald Trump called the virus the “Wuhan flu” and the “Chinese virus”.

Eventually, the flow of anti-Asian tweets slowed, but it’s still higher than before the pandemic.

“We can interpret that as, once the hate is in place, then the hate persists. At least as long as our study period,” said Alexander Hohl, assistant professor at the U of U and lead author of the study.

The spatial distribution of hateful tweets against Asians and Asian Americans: United States, November 2019-May 2020. (Credit: Hohl et al. (2022) American Journal of Public Health)

The study also geotagged the regions of the United States where these anti-Asian tweets primarily occurred.

The researchers bought 4,234,694 geotagged tweets on Twitter, searched for tweets that matched their criteria, and placed them on the map.

The criteria for each tweet are:

  • the tweet is in English,
  • was sent during the study period,
  • located in the contiguous United States and included language COVID-19 (coronavirus, SARSCoV2, etc.),
  • and contained additional keywords related to anti-Asian hate (kungflu, Wuhanvirus, etc.)

The study shows that the strongest cluster was in Ross County, Ohio, “where the proportion of hateful tweets was about 300 times higher than the rest of the country.”

However, the study found no identifiable pattern for these tweets across the county.

“In American culture, we see Asians as the model minority, don’t we? They tend to do well academically and earn money, or at least that’s our perception,” said Richard Medina, associate professor at U of U and co-author of the study. “Often, Asians in America are overlooked as targets of hate speech or hate crimes. But COVID-19 has brought that into sharp focus.

Anti-Asian sentiment in tweets related to COVID-19 over time. The red line is the total daily number of tweets in the study’s dataset, and the blue line is the proportion of tweets that express anti-Asian sentiment. (Credit: Alexander Hohl)

The researchers hope to use their research to protect marginalized communities from racist hate crimes.

According to the STOP AAPI Hate Initiative, an online tool for self-reported hate incidents, there were 9,000 hate incidents during the first COVID-19.

“During the onset of COVID, there were reports of hate crimes committed against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States,” Hohl said. “We believe this warrants a research perspective.”

The researchers plan to map the time and place where the hate crimes occurred and describe a “hate place.”

“The hope is that we can use hate on social media as a predictor of hate on the streets to use as an alarm for communities and public health officials to get the help and protection they need. need,” Medina said.

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