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U.S. students create 'hate map' of bigoted tweets


  1. An interactive map released this week by U.S. geography students shows what regions in America originate the highest number of racist and homophobic posts on Twitter.

    The number of tweets with hateful sentiments in a certain area is expressed in a range of colours from light blue to bright red, a style known as a heat map. In this case, the students have called it a "hate map."

  2. Students at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., incorporated data from 150,000 tweets, focusing on 10 hateful words, as part of a larger project called "Geography of Hate."

    The students read each tweet individually to make sure the content was indeed an expression of hatred, and not some other use of the key words investigated.

    Besides words commonly used as insults against minorities and homosexuals, the researchers included the word "cripple" when used as an invective.

    The data was then normalized for population density, meaning the map isn't just showing where the most people are, but where the most hateful tweets are coming from per capita.

    Carol Off of CBC Radio's As It Happens spoke with Monica Stephens, an associate professor of geography at Humboldt, and research lead on the project.
  3. Stephens says the project began with a list of more than two dozen ethnic slurs, and insulting terms for women, lesbians and gays.

    "Some of them were pared down just for financial feasibility. I paid my students to read through these tweets. It's really tedious work, actually," she said.
  4. Some of the comments about the map on Twitter urged the students to include insulting terms for women in their data.
  5. Stephens directed many of those with comments about the map to an FAQ about the project.
  6. Because the map is interactive - you can focus on a particular part of the country, or only racist tweets or one particular slur against gays - different screen shots appeared on Twitter.
  7. People on Twitter pointed out some general geographic trends on the map.
  8. Many tweets - and mainstream news reports - focused on particular state and cities.