On average, 10,000 racial slurs are tweeted daily according to the think tank Demos.
Racial slurs are considered derogatory terms offensively ascribed to a particular race or ethnic group. Racial slurs are used in a wide variety of ways – both offensive and non-offensive.
Per their disclaimer, Demos investigators only meant to study the presence of racial slurs on Twitter, not necessarily the existence of hate speech or racist trolling. The team acted to answer a few basic questions with their research; specifically in what ways are slurs being used on Twitter, and in what volume?
The report identified six distinct ways in which slurs are used on Twitter:
- Negative stereotype – Users ascribe stereotyped appearance or behavior to an individual or group.
- Casual use of slurs – A derogatory term associated with a specific group is used, sans any mention of physical or behavioral attributes.
- Targeted abuse – Racial slurs are tweeted directly addressing a specific person with intent to cause harm or distress.
- Appropriated – A group reclaiming a term otherwise seen as negative.
- Non-derogatory – Using a racially insensitive term, but without malice intent – playful, or in jest.
- Offline action – An explicit incitement to do something in the real world (in both ideological and political contexts).
Demos‘ researchers analyzed over 125,000 English language tweets – looking specifically for terms considered offensive to ethnic groups. One in every 15,000 tweets contained what they considered racially insensitive content.
And while the vast majority of the racial slurs identified were used in a non-offensive fashion, the prolific use of derogatory name-calling can still have a negative impact, making sites like Twitter anti-social media.
Around 3,000 posts each day – a rate of one in every 55,000 English language tweets – reflect a seemingly genuine racial or ethnic prejudice on the part of the sender. Around 2,000 of those tweets contain deliberately targeted abuse, while fewer than 100 a day threaten violence or real life confrontation (offline action).
Still, Twitter has faced criticism for not doing enough to clamp down on abuse in the wake of high-profile cases of racist trolling, reports Metro. For example, ex-footballer Stan Collymore recently accused the micro-blogging site of failing to do enough to combat offensive messages after he received a barrage of abuse.
In hopes of identifying and curbing the presence of offensive racial slurs, Twitter has a ‘report tweet’ option under their ‘more’ menu. This action triggers an investigation of the content and context of the flagged tweet.