Humboldt State University Students Map Hateful Tweets

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    A heat map created by students at Humboldt State University shows the concentration of tweets containing racist messages from across the country.

    Southern California barely glows blue, but move eastward on a map created by Humboldt State University students and the country grows redder and redder.

    The map does not reflect political leanings, but rather how many hateful tweets are broadcast from residents in those states.

    Dubbed The Geography of Hate, the project pinpoints the origins of digital hate speech by county.

    Areas that glow red have larger proposition of negative tweets referencing a particular “hate word.” The color-code changes from red to purple to dark blue to pale blue, the latter suggesting that area has comparatively less negative tweets, though still more than the national average.

    Ten “hate words” – including those derogatory to gay people, ethnic groups and disabled people – were chosen for the heat map.

    A pale blue color covers much of California, including SoCal, when the map is set to show homophobic tweets. But change the settings to show the total amount of racist tweets, and Southern California becomes a darker shade of blue.

    A pocket of red covers the area near Sacramento.

    No shading over a portion of the country shows that area has a lower proportion of negative tweets compared to the national average. The number of negative tweets from a region are weighted against the area's population.

    More than 150,000 tweets – every geocoded message sent via Twitter in the U.S. between June 2012 and April 2013 – were compiled to create the map. The data was drawn from the DOLLY project based at the University of Kentucky.

    To avoid a computer automatically classifying any tweet containing the so-called hate words as "negative," HSU students read the entirety of the tweets and classified them as positive, neutral or negative based on predefined standards, according to the map’s creators.

    Three undergraduate students created the map as part of Dr. Monica Stephens’ advanced cartography course at HSU.