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Election-related 'hate' tweets big in Alabama, Mississippi

November 09, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • Researchers searched Twitter for geocoded tweets containing certain racially derogatory terms -- "monkey" and one other -- as well as "Obama," "reelected" or "won." Alabama and Mississippi had the highest concentration, they found.
Researchers searched Twitter for geocoded tweets containing certain… (Floating Sheep )

Alabama and Mississippi had a higher concentration of election-related tweets with certain racially derogatory terms than other states in the country, a new study says.

The website Floating Sheep, run by geography professors and other academic researchers, analyzed "hate" tweets by geography for the week of the presidential election. The research was prompted by an article on the website Jezebel that collected screenshots of tweets that contained racial slurs following President Obama's reelection.

"It is a useful reminder that technology reflects the society in which it is based, both the good and the bad," said Matthew Zook, the author of the analysis and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky's Department of Geography.

Zook said the researchers searched Twitter for tweets containing certain racially derogatory terms -- "monkey" and one other -- as well as "Obama," "reelected" or "won." They then gave each state a score based on its number of such tweets compared with its overall Twitter activity.

The analysis looked only at geocoded tweets sent Nov. 1 through 7. It found 395 election-related tweets with the specific derogatory terms.

The color-coded map shows which states have higher scores: The darker the green, the higher the concentration of election-related "hate tweets." States with a relatively low concentration of such tweets, scoring 1 or lower, are marked in yellow.

The states with the highest scores were generally in the Southeast. Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia had scores higher than 3; Mississippi's score of 7.4 was second only to Alabama's 8.1.

North Dakota and Utah scored 3.5, and even Oregon shows up with a green shade and a score of 1.5. Most Northeast and West Coast states scored 1 or lower. California got a 0.5.

States with no such tweets are shaded gray on the map. Rhode Island was among them. So were Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota, which had low levels of overall Twitter use.

"Racist behavior, particularly directed at African Americans in the U.S., is all too easy to find both offline and in information space," Zook said.

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