From Megan Garber at The Atlantic
Floating Sheep, a group of geography academics, took advantage of that fact to turn hatred — and, just as often, stupidity — into information. The team searched Twitter for racism-revealing terms that appeared in the context of tweets that mentioned “Obama,” “re-elected,” or “won.” That search resulted in (a shockingly high and surprisingly low) 395 tweets. The team then sorted the tweets according to the state they were sent from, comparing the racist tweets to the total number of geocoded tweets coming from that state during the same time period (November 1 – 7). To normalize states across population levels, the team then used a location quotient-inspired measure — an economic derivation used to analyze norms across geographical locations — to compare a state’s racist tweets to the national average of racist tweets.
From the Floating Sheep website:
Using the examples of tweets chronicled by Jezebel blog post we collected tweets that contained the text “monkey” or “nigger” AND also contain the text “Obama” OR “reelected” OR “won”. A quick, and very unsettling, examination of the search results revealed that this indeed was a good match for our target of election-related hate speech. We end up with a total of 395 of some of the nastiest tweets you might possibly imagine. And given that we’re talking about the Internet, that is really saying something.
There are so many flaws in this “study” I don’t know where to start. We don’t know anything about these Twitter users other than location, not their age, gender or even race. African Americans are notorious for using the “N-word”, albeit in a different contest than it is used by white racists. These could be troll accounts for all we know.
In one week’s time they found 395 tweets, but they don’t say how many different Twitter users were involved. I am guessing that number was less than 395, as it is unlikely that each individual posted only a single racist tweet.
There are a lot of racist terms out there, and some of them have dual meanings. There are racial epithets that are directed at white people too, and not all racism is evidenced by racial terminology. The methodology is also skewed by the fact that Twitter users do not represent the public at large but are instead heavily skewed toward a younger demographic.
But let’s push that aside and just look at the numbers. There are over 311 million people in this country according to the most recent census. There are over 37 million people in California alone, but according to that chart there were only 11 racist tweeters in the whole damn state, and most of them came from the blue areas of Los Angeles and the SF Bay area. Utah shows a single dot and yet it is listed as having the 5th highest Racism LQ.
Even if we were to assume (based on this faulty study) that the South is “more racist” than the rest of the country, it still doesn’t tell us how racist the country actually is.
This is a steaming pile of horseshit. But I’m sure somebody will use it as a reference to argue that “studies show” the South is still filled with racists.