Hate speech on Twitter predicts frequency of real-life hate crimes

June 24, 2019

NEW YORK, Monday, June 24, 2019 - According to a first-of-its-kind study, cities with a higher incidence of a certain kind of racist tweets reported more actual hate crimes related to race, ethnicity, and national origin.

A New York University research team analyzed the location and linguistic features of 532 million tweets published between 2011 and 2016. They trained a machine learning model -- one form of artificial intelligence -- to identify and analyze two types of tweets: those that are targeted -- directly espousing discriminatory views -- and those that are self-narrative -- describing or commenting upon discriminatory remarks or acts. The team compared the prevalence of each type of discriminatory tweet to the number of actual hate crimes reported during that same time period in those same cities.

The research was led by Rumi Chunara, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and biostatistics at the NYU College of Global Public Health, and Stephanie Cook, an assistant professor of biostatistics and social and behavioral sciences at the NYU College of Global Public Health.

"We found that more targeted, discriminatory tweets posted in a city related to a higher number of hate crimes," said Chunara. "This trend across different types of cities (for example, urban, rural, large, and small) confirms the need to more specifically study how different types of discriminatory speech online may contribute to consequences in the physical world."

The analysis included cities with a wide range of urbanization, varying degrees of population diversity, and different levels of social media usage. The team limited the dataset to tweets and bias crimes describing or motivated by race, ethnic or national origin-based discrimination. Hate crimes are categorized and tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, or national origin represent the largest proportion of hate crimes in the nation. Statistics for sexual orientation crimes were not available in all cities, although the researchers previously studied this form of bias.

The group also identified a set of discriminatory terms and phrases that are commonly used on social media across the country, as well as terms specific to a particular city or region. These insights could prove useful in identifying groups that may be likelier targets of racially motivated crimes and types of discrimination in different places. While most tweets included in this analysis were generated by actual Twitter users, the team found that an average of 8% of tweets containing targeted discriminatory language was generated by bots.

There was a negative relationship between the proportion of race/ethnicity/national-origin-based discrimination tweets that were self-narrations of experiences and the number of crimes based on the same biases in cities. Chunara noted that while experiences of discrimination in the real world are known psychological stressors with health and social consequences, the implications of online exposure to different types of online discrimination -- self-narrations versus targeted, for example -- need further study.

These results represent one of the largest, most comprehensive analyses of discriminatory social media posts and real-life bias crimes in this country, although the researchers emphasize that the specific causal mechanisms between social media hate speech and real-life acts of violence need to be explored.
-end-
Chunara recently presented the study, Race, Ethnicity and National Origin-based Discrimination in Social Media and Hate Crimes across 100 U.S. Cities, at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference on Web and Social Media in Munich, Germany. Co-authors include NYU Tandon students Kunal Relia and Zhengyi Li in addition to Cook.

The researchers were also recently awarded a Content Policy Research on Social Media Platforms research grant from Facebook, through which they will continue their work on the downstream consequences of online discrimination.

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, one of the country's foremost private research universities, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.About NYU College of Global Public Health

At the NYU College of Global Public Health (NYU GPH), we are preparing the next generation of public health pioneers with the critical thinking skills, acumen, and entrepreneurial approaches necessary to reinvent the public health paradigm. Devoted to employing a nontraditional, inter-disciplinary model, NYU GPH aims to improve health worldwide through a unique blend of global public health studies, research and practice. The College is located in the heart of New York City and extends to NYU's global network on six continents. Innovation is at the core of our ambitious approach, thinking and teaching. For more, visit: publichealth.nyu.edu

NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.