Study: South Shore high in hateful tweets
May 31, 2013
Twitter is not necessarily known for civil discourse, but the findings of a recent map created by researchers at Humboldt State University shows El Dorado and Douglas counties contributing a relatively large number of hateful tweets to the social networking site.
The Geography of Hate map is part of a larger effort by Monica Stephens, an assistant professor at Humboldt State University, to track online hate speech. The map looks at the frequency of tweets from June though April coded with a location and containing one of 10 "hate words" chosen by researchers.
Humboldt State University students read the posts to determine whether tweets containing one of the words were positive, neutral or negative. Only the negative tweets were used in the map.
"The map represents real tweets sent by real people, and is evidence that the feeling of anonymity provided by Twitter can manifest itself in an ugly way," according to creators.
When compared to the national average, El Dorado and Douglas counties show the highest frequency of homophobic tweets in California or Nevada. Researchers found the counties have one of the highest proportions of racist tweets in the region compared to the national average. The map shows the counties as having a lower frequency of negative tweets containing derogatory terms for disabled people than the national average.
"People may feel their communities are misrepresented, but these are parts of the community that they may not be interacting with and may not see," Stephens told the Kansas City Star. "We hope that this is an impetus for a conversation with members of a community about using these words and not supporting these groups."
She told the paper those who want to change the representation of their areas on the map should tweet non-hateful messages with geocoding enabled.
Although the South Shore region showed some of the highest frequencies of hate speech on Twitter in California and Nevada, the relative abundance of hateful tweets was far less than seen elsewhere in the U.S. The study found the prevalence of hateful tweets in the eastern half of the U.S. was far greater than that in the western half of the country.