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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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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:19AM (#41949151) Journal
    I love data porn and tried to play around with this interactive map []. I lived in Minnesota for 23 years and do not recall it to be very racist -- even in the rural areas. So according to that map there are five red dots in Minnesota which are strangely all centered around the twin cities area (the most populated and liberal part of the state). And that data puts Minnesota mentionably close to the top of the list? But if I look at Virginia, I can't even count the number of red dots there's so many and it's not even halfway up the list? What the hell?

    Do each of these red dots indicate a single tweet? What are the numbers and tweets that they're looking at here, I feel like the LQ value is not doing the best job of reflecting "racism."
  • Re:Careful (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nopainogain ( 1091795 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @10:24AM (#41949189)
    We all know the numbers are skewed. You can make statistics do anything. I live in Philadelphia. We live with Andy Reid and had Donovan McNabb for many years.. Statistically, McNabb threw the fewest interceptions in the NFL..... Factually, he couldn't hit a receiver's hands with a ball if he was given military targeting lasers.
  • Re:Actually Measured (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:12AM (#41949437)

    The story also does not count African-American ("black") prejudice/racism toward Latino/Hispanic ("brown"). In reading many articles and comments, most people are unaware of this "black-on-brown" racism but, for those who live and work in minority areas, it is noticeable.

    The Washington Times published a story (three weeks in the weekend issue, IIRC) about "black-on-brown" racism in some major metropolitan settings. One was Memphis (where I lived for 16 years as an adult). The article was full of African-Americans making interesting/telling complains about Latinos/Hispanics. Statements such as "they don't look like us"; "they don't talk like us"; "we can't understand what they say"; they don't eat the same food as we eat"; even, "they don't smell like us". Quite interesting and enlightening articles. Either African-Americans are just as racism as "white" people or the noticing of differences is a normal function of being a human and part of a group.

    African-American are just as prejudiced against people who are not like them or are not a part of their group as any other group.

    Personally, I am at a quandary. Since my ethnicity includes European (northern and southern), African (north and central), Asian (near, middle, and far), and the new "Latino" and older Hispanic, who should I disdain? Which part of me is less than the other individual parts? Quite a problem in our race-oriented political culture. Thankfully, the Knoxville News Sentential ran article on "white" Southerners quoting experts who said all had 5% African blood. This means all Southerners are African-American and can legally claim to be "black" and joint the NAACP, the New Black Panthers, the Democrat Party; they can also change their EEO status and qualify for Food Stamps, Scholarships, etc., etc. much, (Oops, which part of me am I ragging on now?) LOL!!!

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:15AM (#41949463) 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 think it's absolutely horrible and the fact that these states names but not their numbers have found their way into headlines and a Slashdot summary makes me sick. They might have been right to indict the Southern states that we already know have issues along these lines but their map of tweets [] lists precisely one tweet for Utah and one tweet for North Dakota. The really appalling thing about the North Dakota tweet is that it is geolocated to Minot, a town that has seen an explosive growth in transient workers from states like Oklahoma and Texas in order to meet the demand for workers with oil specialties in the oil fields near there. It's probably a fifty/fifty shot the tweet was from an actual permanent resident of North Dakota.

    Basically if a low population states hits the top of your study and the data is that sparse (one tweet!) then I think you should omit that as an outlier and stricken those names from your press release. It's great to recognize these things in your data and to talk about them in your analysis. It's unjust to propagate just their names throughout the news making people think that North Dakota is not only cold and sparsely populated but it's also racist.

    Someone in Salt Lake City could have been joking in one tweet and suddenly Utah is one of the most racist states in a Slashdot summary. A transient worker who feels like lost his job in OK and had to use his CDL in Minot, ND because a black man was president could fire off an ignorant tweet and suddenly North Dakota is full of racists.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:43AM (#41949633)

    How is that when people speak their mind it is labeled "racist"? Isn't there a freedom of speech? President is the public persona, up for discussions. There is the first amendment, people. Freedom of speech and expression.

    When black people vote for him just because he is black, how isn't this not a racism?
    When minority people get lower passing grades in schools how isn't this a racism?

    People have the right to speak their mind.

  • by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @02:09PM (#41950653)

    When white people hate black people, the people who are harmed the most by it are black people.

    When black people hate white people, the people who are harmed the most by it are black people.

    In the US there are more white people than black people and the white people have more power. The situation is not symmetric.

    For now, the 'specific type' of racism that was measured is still important in a way that the others aren't, even if the others are important also. Soon white people will be a minority, but then black racism still won't be a large threat to white people, it will be asian and hispanic racism, or the absence of it, that affects them primarily.

    I agree that racism is a better term than reverse racism. But its BS when people (not necessarily you) bemoan the fact that black racism isn't treated like white racism. Likewise for when people complain of "class warfare" when rich people are criticized for abusing the power that money gives them. (When a poor person thinks that rich people should pay more taxes, and politicians pander to that, it doesn't harm the rich person in anything like the way the poor person is harmed by the self serving actions of the rich person. Getting laid off to increase the quarterly earnings of an already profitable company, for instance, is a lot worse than a multi-millionaire having to pay 20% capital gains tax instead of 15%. The argument is made that higher capital gains taxes would hurt poor people because it discourages investment. This ignores the fact that 'investment' activity is often more parasitic in nature rather than economically constructive. But even supposing the argument is valid, it still illustrates the asymmetry - its the poor person who suffers in both cases. This doesn't imply that rich people are 'worse' than poor people, or that poor people would be any kinder if their roles were reversed. But it does mean that when you're successful, the wealth you acquire gives you more power to affect other people, and you're responsible for what you do with that.)

    I consider myself to be racist, and its something I'm not entirely ashamed of. I don't think that cultures are in every sense equivalent, and I don't think that all kinds of intelligence are uniformly distributed across genetic groups. Its BS when black people act like their worst stereotypes then complain of racism when they get criticized for it. But its worse to use even real weaknesses and shortcomings of other people as an excuse to unjustly abuse and exploit them when you have the power to do that. From where I stand, white people who try to draw an equivalence between black and white racism generally don't see anything like the truth about how grievously black people have been fucked over by white people. And I'm not just talking about Jim Crow, that affected many still-living black people. Our entire social and economic order is still to a very large extent built around the values and strengths of non-black people. Its not being 'fair' when you define virtue in terms of your own best advantages then punish others for falling short by that standard.

  • Re:Actually Measured (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @05:15PM (#41951789)

    what gets out to the media and beyond has at least some chance of being right

    I don't think that has ever worked for anyone in the last 20 years I have no reason to believe it will start now.

    Not too long ago /. had posts from the communications department of the university of western ontario, which is where I am a researcher, and from our own university the document was a poor characterization of what the research actually was (HIV vaccine stuff in this case, though I'm in comp sci and they don't do our work any better). Somewhere along the line someone decided that the 'public' only understand high level concepts, so everything we communicate is written as thought it was for a 16 year old to understand. It doesn't matter than dozens of other research papers and groups will actually have to do the work to make the thing the 16 year old understand though, we talk about pieces of a puzzle as though they are a solution to the puzzle. And there's no central media authority who might change it.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents