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Study finds derogatory tweet outweighs rise in anti-Asian hashtags

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by: Peter Snarr / KRON, Nexstar Media Wire

Posted: March 21, 2021 / 02:48 PM EDT / Updated: March 21, 2021 / 02:48 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) There was a significant increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter in the week after former President Donald Trump tweeted the term Chinese virus last March, a study from the University of California at San Franciscofound.

The study examined nearly 700,000 tweets and nearly 1.3 million hashtags in the weeks before and after Trumps’ tweet on March 16, 2020, which linguistic health experts said would contribute to an increase in racist attitudes.

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People who tweeted #chinesevirus were much more likely to associate it with other overtly racist hashtags, while people who used # covid19, the official World Health Organization name for the disease and the recommended term by public health experts, were much less likely to include racist. hashtags.

About 20% of the nearly 500,000 hashtags with # covid19 showed anti-Asian sentiment, while 50% of the 775,000 tweets containing #chinesevirus had anti-Asian bias.

The researchers chose to track hashtags rather than the content of the tweets themselves, because hashtags have been shown to act as a predictor of hate group formation and the occurrence of hate crimes.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, comes at a time when the nation is counting with an eruption of violent attacks against people of Asian descent.

These findings may be an indicator of growing anti-Asian sentiment that was not as prevalent as it used to be, said Yulin Hswen, ScD, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and a member of the Baker. Computational Health Sciences Institute. The use of racial terms associated with an illness can lead to the perpetuation of increased stigma against racial groups.

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Hswen says this study proves it’s important to use neutral language when naming public health issues.

The Chinese virus, the Chinese virus, the Wuhan virus, or anything derived from those terms is not something we should be using, Hswen said. We should not tie location or ethnicity to diseases.

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