A map that aggregates geo-coded tweets shows the location of racist and homophobic comments. The map was put together by a team of geographers lead by Dr. Matthew Zook of University of Kentucky, who called themselves Floating Sheep. Floating sheep has has built maps in the past by pulling together user-generated, geo-coded information from the Internet. They’ve explored, for example, The Price of Weed, and compared the use of the word “beer” vs. “church.”
The results demonstrate markedly different regional preferences and word choices. For the team’s latest map, Geography of Hate, they searched for all geo-tagged tweets in North America between June 2012 and April 2013 that contained racial and homophobic slurs.
To make sure that they were actually counting a word as an intended slur, students at Humboldt State manually read and coded the sentiment of each tweet. “For example,” the website explains, “the phrase ‘dyke’, while often negative when referring to an individual person, was also used in positive ways (e.g. ‘dykes on bikes #SFPride’).”
More than 150,000 geo-tagged tweets contained a hateful slur deemed negative. From that analysis, the Floating Sheep built this map. According to the researchers, most slurs do not appear to be concentrated in any single place or region in the United States. Instead, there are a number of concentrated areas where the words get heavy usage. The exception appears to be toward Latino immigrants. Floating Sheep reports:
“Perhaps the most interesting concentration comes for references to ‘wetback’, a slur meant to degrade Latino immigrants to the US by tying them to ‘illegal’ immigration. Ultimately, this term is used most in different areas of Texas, showing the state’s centrality to debates about immigration in the US. But the areas with significant concentrations aren’t necessarily that close to the border, and neither do other border states who feature prominently in debates about immigration contain significant concentrations.”