“Geography of hate” maps racist, homophobic tweets in U.S.


(click for larger image)

“Twitter has the capacity to ignite revolutions and enable small acts of kindness, but there’s also a darker side to the microblogging network,” according to Mashable.

“Floating Sheep, a group of geography academics, created the ‘Geography of Hate,’ which maps racist, homophobic and ableist tweets in the U.S. After searching for all geotagged tweets in North America between June 2012 and April 2013, students at Humboldt State University manually read and coded the sentiment of each tweet to determine if a specific word was used in a positive, negative or neutral way. In a blog post, Floating Sheep cited ‘dyke’ as an example: While the word is a homophobic slur against lesbian people, it can also be used positively (e.g. “dykes on bikes #SFPride).

“In total, over 150,000 geotagged tweets contained a hateful slur that was deemed negative. Using the data, Floating Sheep determined the ratio of hateful tweets to overall tweets in each county.

“‘Hateful tweets were aggregated to the county level and then normalized by the total number of tweets in each county. This then shows a comparison of places with disproportionately high amounts of a particular hate word relative to all tweeting activity,‘ the group said.

“Orange County, Calif., for example, has the highest absolute number of tweets containing slurs, but due to its high level of overall Twitter activity, the hateful tweets are less prominent, and therefore are not that conspicuous on the map.

“Floating Sheep has three main categories of hateful tweets — homophobic, racist and disability — under which are subcategories for specific slurs.

Click through the detailed map, here, including our area.

And for in-depth analysis of the results, read the entire blog post, here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

17 thoughts on ““Geography of hate” maps racist, homophobic tweets in U.S.”

  1. Nevada County looks well represented on the map. I wonder if the Rebane raghead remarks make the sample?

  2. I am highly skeptical of survey data based on social media geotagging.


    First, only 150,000 tweets surveyed, out of how many total in the area? compared to what percentage that have geotagging turned off? who turns geotagging on anyway? Mine is off on as much stuff as I can turn it off on because I don’t want some of my fellow Nevada County shit kickers to know where the heck I am! I mean really, I went to Mongolia and China and they called me a communist…… I don’t think we can actually draw any conclusions (other than as a fun little novelty) from data like this until we have more scientifically vetted means of polling.

    I do think though that if this was cross referenced with gun and ammunition sales, survivalist equipment, John Birch Society membership, IRS c-4 letters, fundamentalist churches, Polident and Depends sales, mormon campaign contributions, and use of the words ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’, ‘patriot’ and ‘constitutional’, we would discover cluster of idiocy so bright parts of Nevada County would be visible from Uranus.

  3. Steve,
    The key on pushing back against the ‘liberty’ ‘patriot’ ‘freedom’ ‘constitutional’ baloney is two challenge the definitions put forward by conservative think tanks and focus group sound bites.

  4. Unfortunately, Ben, — though I agree in principle with ‘pushing back’ — I seldom, if ever, have success. People dig in their heels and defend whatever ideology they have adopted because the ideology has become an integral and important part of ‘who they are’; a major portion of their ego and sense of self and self importance. (IMO, of course.)

    1. Ed,
      The success isn’t in those who are part of the conversation but those who are reading the conversation. Many more people read blogs than comment on them.

  5. Actually, when you expand the maps, the only marked area in our region is South Lake Tahoe, not Nevada County. Most of the activity there appears to be use of homophobic slurs.

    1. Ray,

      Thanks for noting the absence of hate speech data for Nevada County. When reading the comments, I was quite surprised that the first few were remarking on Nevada County’s representation on the map, down to pinpointing Penn Valley, when I couldn’t see anything for our area.

      I was also surprised that the disability slur category was limited to one word, “cripple”. As the parent of a disabled child, I can come up with quite a few.

      However, I was most surprised at how densely marked the eastern part of the map was for hate speech. Could that be because of their close proximity to the center of our divisive government? Just a thought.

      1. Jeff,

        I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I pulled up a google earth map and compared it to the “hate” map, and like Sharon’s observation it is in the Bullard’s Bar area which is Yuba County. Out of 150,000 tweets and in the very light blue, how many tweets could that have been? Not many I suspect. Thanks, though, for alerting us to this study.

    1. I think that’s what we did, Jeff. What I see is a med turquoise glow close to Penn Valley, and a dark blue/blue larger glow in S. Lake Tahoe – nothing else. No red anywhere in CA.
      Do you see something different?

      1. Also, the website says that the tweets have been aggregated to the county level, but the glow is at the far western end of NC – could even be in Yuba County.

      2. In fact, now that I look at Google maps, the turquoise glow looks to be just south of Bullards Bar, just as likely Yuba County, as Nevada County.

  6. When I expanded the map Nevada County was on there but not much at all from what I could tell, which is a good thing.

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