The Geography of Hate

homophobic tweets
Click for interactive map

The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically. As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different.

Rather than focusing just on hate directed towards a single individual at a single point in time, we wanted to analyze a broader swath of discriminatory speech in social media, including the usage of racist, homophobic and ableist slurs…

All together, the students determined over 150,000 geotagged tweets with a hateful slur to be negative. 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. For example, Orange County, California has the highest absolute number of tweets mentioning many of the slurs, but because of its significant overall Twitter activity, such hateful tweets are less prominent and therefore do not appear as prominently on our map. So when viewing the map at a broad scale, it’s best not to be covered with the blue smog of hate, as even the lower end of the scale includes the presence of hateful tweeting activity.

Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated.

Clicking through to the original article details the methodology of analysis. It’s a start. Poisonally, I think more time spent verifying and validating target analysis will lead to more precision.

Still, this is not only a productive study, it’s provocative. Useful in its own right.

Clicking on the graphic at the top leads you to an interactive map for homophobia, racism, disability – hatred in several forms.

Thanks to Barry Ritholtz for pointing this out

Having a dog companion reduces heart risk

The nation’s largest cardiovascular health organization has a new message for Americans: Owning a dog may protect you from heart disease.

The unusual message was contained in a scientific statement published on Thursday by the American Heart Association, which convened a panel of experts to review years of data on the cardiovascular benefits of owning a pet. The group concluded that owning a dog, in particular, was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease.

People who own dogs certainly have more reason to get outside and take walks, and studies show that most owners form such close bonds with their pets that being in their presence blunts the owners’ reactions to stress and lowers their heart rate, said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, the head of the committee that wrote the statement.

But most of the evidence is observational, which makes it impossible to rule out the prospect that people who are healthier and more active in the first place are simply more likely to bring a dog or cat into their home.

“We didn’t want to make this too strong of a statement,” said Dr. Levine, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine. “But there are plausible psychological, sociological and physiological reasons to believe that pet ownership might actually have a causal role in decreasing cardiovascular risk…”

The new report reviewed dozens of studies, and over all it seemed clear that pet owners, especially those with dogs, the focus of most of the studies, were in better health than people without pets.

“Several studies showed that dogs decreased the body’s reaction to stress, with a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline-like hormone release when a pet is present as opposed to when a pet is not present,” Dr. Levine said.

Pet owners also tended to report greater amounts of physical activity, and modestly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some research showed that people who had pets of any kind were also more likely to survive heart attacks…

Dr. Levine said that he and his colleagues were not recommending that people adopt pets for any reason other than to give them a good home.

“If someone adopts a pet, but still sits on the couch and smokes and eats whatever they want and doesn’t control their blood pressure,” he said, “that’s not a prudent strategy to decrease their cardiovascular risk.”

Walking the dog is always a shared experience in our family. Neither side of the equation seems to think they’re doing the other a special favor. It’s just fun for us to be together outdoors, sharing a walk.