Posts depicting anti-Asian sentiment spiked shortly after President Donald Trump announced his COVID-19 diagnosis on Twitter, according to a new study from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Trump, who was hospitalized for three days, disclosed that he had the coronavirus on Oct. 2, sending the nation in shock amid an increasingly tense election climate.
Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
The study, conducted by the ADL’s Center for Technology and Society, found an 85% surge in anti-Asian language 12 hours following the announcement on the platform.
The percentage remained elevated for the next three days, making up about 0.60% of tweets in the subset of conversations centered on the news.
A new study from our Center for Technology & Society found that in the 12 hours after POTUS’ initial tweet about his & the first lady’s COVID-19 diagnosis, there was an 85% increase in anti-Asian language & conspiracy theories on Twitter. Full report: https://t.co/lAIYgAhtdl
— ADL (@ADL) October 9, 2020
ADL collected the data using its own Online Hate Index (OHI), a machine learning tool that investigates the prevalence of hate speech on social media platforms.
“The level of hatred and vitriol that was aimed at Asian Americans and Chinese people on social media is simply staggering,” said ADL Chief Executive Officer Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “The hate speech and stereotyping are irresponsible and can spillover into real world violence. With the alarming increase in physical attacks and hate crimes against Asian Americans in recent months, it is clear that all leaders, including our president, need to stop blaming others for spreading the virus.”
Just spoke with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson of the United Kingdom. Very thankful for his friendship and support as I recovered from the China Virus. I am looking forward to working with him for many years to come, a great guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Critics such as Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) have since blamed Trump for the surge in anti-Asian incidents due to his use of controversial terms such as “China virus,” “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu.”
“Misinformation and xenophobia are dangerous. That is why the CDC and WHO have both warned not to associate COVID-19 with a specific people or country because of the stigma it causes. And now, thanks to the ADL’s report, we are able to see that harmful impact in real time,” said Chu. “As the ADL’s report shows, the alarming anti-Asian hate incidents we have witnessed in recent months are not an accident. They are the result of an atmosphere of xenophobia and bigotry that is thriving on Twitter and other online platforms.”
At this rate I don’t think we even really know how this Kung flu is spread.
— Esther K (@estherk_k) October 11, 2020
ADL analyzed more than 2.7 million tweets from 8 p.m. UTC on Oct. 2 to 9 p.m. UTC on Oct. 5. Aside from anti-Asian tweets, the Jewish organization also found a 41% increase in discussions on conspiracy theories 12 hours after Trump’s announcement.
Such theories include the supposed establishment of a “New World Order,” Trump being a Zionist agent and the development of the novel coronavirus from a Wuhan laboratory. Some also claimed that Bill Gates unleashed the pandemic, according to ADL.
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