Sunday, May 19, 2013

Researchers map geotagged 'tweets of hate'

A group of academic geographers at Humboldt State University in California and the University of Kentucky are researching geotagged "tweets of hate," including racism and homophobia,  and finding that they are more prevalent outside major metropolitan areas. The maps "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," the researchers write. Here's a map of racist tweets; click on the image for a larger version, or here for the original, interactive version.
"Quite depressingly, there are a number of pockets of concentration that demonstrate heavy usage of the word," the researchers write. "In addition to looking at the density of hateful words, we also examined how many unique users were tweeting these words. For example in the Quad Cities, 31 unique Twitter users tweeted the word 'nigger' in a hateful way 41 times. There are two likely reasons for higher proportion of such slurs in rural areas: demographic differences and differing social practices with regard to the use of Twitter. We will be testing the clusters of hate speech against the demographic composition of an area in a later phase of this project." Here's their map of homophobic tweets:
"Only around 1.5 percent of all tweets are geotagged, as it requires opting-in to Twitter's location services," the researchers acknowledge. "Sure enough, that subset might be biased in a multitude of ways when compared with the the entire body of tweets or even with the general population. But that does not mean that the spatial patterns we discover based on geotagged tweets should automatically be discarded." (Read more)

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