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Geomapping Racism With Twitter 409

Hugh Pickens writes "Megan Garber writes that in the age of the quantified self, biases are just one more thing that can be measured, analyzed, and publicized. The day after Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States, a group of geography academics took advantage of the fact that many tweets are geocoded to search Twitter for racism-revealing terms that appeared in the context of tweets that mentioned 'Obama,' 're-elected,' or 'won,' sorting the tweets according to the state they were sent from and comparing the racist tweets to the total number of geocoded tweets coming from that state during the same time period. Their findings? Alabama and Mississippi have the highest measures followed closely by Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee forming a fairly distinctive cluster in the southeast. Beyond that cluster North Dakota and Utah both had relatively high scores (3.5 each), as did Missouri, Oregon, and Minnesota. 'These findings support the idea that there are some fairly strong clustering of hate tweets centered in southeastern U.S. which has a much higher rate than the national average,' writes Matthew Zook. 'But lest anyone elsewhere become too complacent, the unfortunate fact is that most states are not immune from this kind of activity. Racist behavior, particularly directed at African Americans in the U.S., is all too easy to find both offline and in information space.'"
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Geomapping Racism With Twitter

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  • Actually Measured (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kenh ( 9056 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:18AM (#41949137) Homepage Journal

    How did they account for multiple racists tweets from one "tweeter"?

    One racist sending 100 racist tweets is not the same as 100 different racists each sending one racist tweet each.

  • Careful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:21AM (#41949163)
    They're only looking for racism directed against Obama, so they won't find (for example) black against white racism in Philadelphia or Latino against Caucasian racism in California. It is truly regrettable that certain organizations like the SPLC dilute their otherwise honorable mission by turning a blind eye to hate in some of its notable forms.
  • Re:niggers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:25AM (#41949199)

    Lucky for you, free speech covers your spew. Posting AC doesn't allow us to revile you as thoroughly as we should, but we'll remember your hate.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:57AM (#41949341)

    With only a couple of days work this isn't bad. But it's not science, it's interest and a proof of concept for doing actual research.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:58AM (#41949343) Homepage
    The data only accounts for racism specifically targetting Obama by the looks of it. So not surprisingly the states that lost the civil war have the most. But it appears to be counting tweets vs accounts. That makes a huge difference because it only takes one mouthy retard to drive your state up the ranks.
  • by stranger_to_himself ( 1132241 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:11AM (#41949431) Journal

    With only a couple of days work this isn't bad. But it's not science, it's interest and a proof of concept for doing actual research.

    I accept they didn't work very hard on this but in that case its irresponsible to be promoting the findings among people who clearly won't bother to understand the (immense) limitations of the method. It's slightly irritating that as far as the general public is concerned this kind of back of the envelope calculation is indistinguishable from proper science. I wouldn't publicise any findings until I'd had them peer-reviewed and published. But then maybe I'm old-fashioned (and maybe this is why I don't have an academic blog)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:26AM (#41949527)

    There were loads of racist tweets from blacks threatening to riot if Romney won. Did they manage to track any of those?

  • Re:Racist terms? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kenh ( 9056 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:35AM (#41949589) Homepage Journal

    Apparently Chris Matthews gets to decide what is racist. For example, he declared that refering to "Chicago" is racist. []

  • Re:niggers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:41AM (#41949617)

    Actually, it's not the word, it's the person that makes it racist. As George Carlin ($deity bless his smutty soul) said "Eddie Murphy talks about niggers, but he's not a racist, don't be silly. He's a nigger". Is Carlin a racist for using the word? I kinda doubt that he is. And even if, he's not for using the word.

    Words are, by themselves, nothing but just that. Words. Idioms to represent something, in case of a noun, to represent an item, a person or an idea. It's the intention behind the word that makes it racist or not. And that's not depending on the word. If a racist calls someone an Afro-American (or whatever the PC word is right now, sorry if I don't keep up with the bull but I prefer to be correct instead of PC), the intention is to use the word not only to ridicule PCness, but also to use the PC term to deem someone inferior.

    It is not the word. It is the person that is racist. And by changing the politically correct term for it, you don't change racism. You just paint the shit in a different color, but it still reeks.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:43AM (#41949631)

    all minorities are racially superior since they are completely incapable of being bigots towards anyone!

    Racism isn't just about mere feelings. It's about a group wielding power against others in ways that cause real harm.

  • Re:niggers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:50AM (#41949677)

    Not at all.

    Language is tricky. You can be what you want to be. My doubts about the nature of your posts has to do with your seeming self-reviling. You describe yourself in terms that don't connote pride, they connote self-loathing, which shouldn't be the case.

    Along thru this thread, I've told you that you can use any words that you want; they're protected speech. Your inference, however, is that you seem to despise these things. Being of mixed race, part of the LGBTQ rainbow, these are who you are as an individual. I respect individuals. I don't respect negative labels.

    For English, there is no real language police. There is, however, the semantical choices made by English speakers that contextually infer their contexts, and their meanings. Describe yourself in any way you see fit, but don't believe that others want to use the negative inference you've used as well. Indeed, these words are used to subjugate you by labeling you in negative terms. Those negative terms are viable. But they do little good.

    That you may be perceived by others negatively is their misfortune. For you to do so, however, validates their negativity and prejudice. Be proud. Pride is a positive quality, and eschews the negative.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:11PM (#41949835)

    I wouldn't publicise any findings until I'd had them peer-reviewed and published.

    Then you'd never get funding for a project like this.

    They're demonstrating that there might be something interesting to study, the press lets them ask for money rather than beg, and they're not all that invested in a project that might not go anywhere.

    its irresponsible to be promoting the findings among people who clearly won't bother to understand

    I hate to break it to you, but the press doesn't understand peer reviewed work any better. Whenever media ever looks at any academic work they completely misrepresent it. That's something you get used to.

  • Re:niggers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omestes ( 471991 ) <omestes@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:14PM (#41949865) Homepage Journal

    As a person who isn't a kid these days, and is completely unfamiliar with hip internet parlance (i.e. lives in the real world), terms like "faggot" and the n-word (I don't even want to type it) are still highly charged, and loaded with ugly context. I really doubt that most gay people or black people would also find these words fully acceptable (go find one, call them it, then try to tell them that its okay on 4chan so they should relax).

    Words do have power. Words shape our understanding and conception of the world. Words with a loaded history of venom and hate still maintain a portion of that long after they stop being completely pejorative. It doesn't even matter what the speaker means, as meaning is created mostly by the perceiver.

    Further, your being a bit naive. If someone calls me a "fag", I'm pretty sure they aren't critiquing my fashion sense, they are trying to tie me to a group which (for some stupid reason) they find undesirable. It is an insult which hinged on the idea that homosexuals are bad or dirty. This is the actual content behind the word. The word isn't bad, but the connections it requires to have meaning are.

    Unless of course they are asking for a cigarette, or some firewood.

    Hell, "fuck" has pretty much become a normal word now, but there still are some connotations lurking in the background which keeps me from ever really wanting to use it (I do, and often, but don't find it a point of pride).

  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:45PM (#41950055)

    How is that when people speak their mind it is labeled "racist"? Isn't there a freedom of speech?

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Calling these idiots racists is an exercise of free speech.

    Oh, you wanted us to sit silently while you spew little-minded vitriolic bullshit? Is that how you think free speech works?

  • by stranger_to_himself ( 1132241 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:55PM (#41950109) Journal

    BTW, I just checked out a sample size calculator []. For a 95 percent confidence level with a +- 5% confidence interval, and a population of 400 million, guess what your sample size needs to be.


    Now this calculation for a survey is a little different from what the researchers are doing here, but it illustrates my point. You can do a lot with small sample sizes if the differences between groups are large.

    That's if they're only trying to estimate a grand rate. To make state-by-state estimates they need this number *per state*.

  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:06PM (#41950193)

    I know another term for reverse-racism ... it's "racism". It shouldn't be made different in any way. If people keep doing things to treat any type of racism differently, it will never stop.

  • by dbet ( 1607261 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:00PM (#41951349)
    It sounds like you decided that since it's not realistic for the whole of black men to have power over the whole of white men, that you've extrapolated that into believing that it's not possible for a black man to have power over a white man.

    White man walks through black neighborhood, gets attacked by black men because he's white. If you don't count that as racism than you should probably stop trying to use words at all.
  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @08:04PM (#41952821) Homepage
    To me, everything you just said, is in fact a racist comment.

    when person X cant get a scholarship to a college, eventhough their grades are higher than person Y, that is racism. when person X does not get a job as a police officer when they finish 3rd in the class, yet person Y -who finishes 15th in the class does get the job - that is racism

    sure "white people" who have been dead for 100 years held "black people" who have also been dead for 100 years as slaves. but that was then, There is no reason "black person" should get anything special from "white person" today because neither of them had anything to do with slavery

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