10,000 racist slurs posted on Twitter each day, study finds

Twitter trolls: Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo pleaded guilty to sending menacing tweets on 7 January and were jailed 24 January

10,000 tweets containing racist slurs are posted on Twitter every day according to a major new study by the think tank Demos.

Researchers from the organisation’s social media unit analysed 126,975 English-language tweets over a 9-day period, finding that the most common slurs included ‘whitey’, ‘p*ki’ and ‘pikey’.

The most frequently used racial slur was, by a long margin, ‘white boy’. Just less than half of all tweets (48.9 per cent) containing racial slurs used the term, with an average daily use of 4,890 tweets a day.

However, the researchers stressed that nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of all tweets containing racial slurs were used in a non-derogatory fashion, often invoking the terms to describe “themselves or their own community”.

“While there are a lot of racial slurs being used on Twitter, the overwhelming majority of them are not used in an obviously prejudicial or hateful way,” said Jamie Barlett, director of the CASM social media unit at Demos and author of the report.

“This study shows just how difficult it is to know what people really mean on the basis of a tweet. Context is king, and often it’s more or less lost on Twitter.”

Demos estimated that between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of tweets were used to express solidarity with a certain group and cited ‘p*ki’ as one term that has been re-appropriated by users identifying themselves as of Pakistani descent.

In response to the research a Twitter spokesperson said “Twitter is a social broadcast network that enables people and organizations to publicly share brief messages instantly around the world. This brings a variety of users with different voices, ideas and perspectives.”

Twitter trolls: Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo pleaded guilty to sending menacing tweets on 7 Januaryand were jailed 24 January Twitter trolls: Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo pleaded guilty to sending menacing tweets on 7 Januaryand were jailed 24 January

Users are allowed to post content, including potentially inflammatory content, as long as they’re not violating the Twitter Rules. It’s important to know that Twitter does not screen content or remove potentially offensive content.”

Like many social media platforms, Twitter faces an ugly struggle with individuals who use the site for posting racist or abusive messages. While the internet has a long history of enabling the practice of online bullying and baiting, critics of the micro-blogging site say it does not do enough to counter such abuse.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said that last year there were more than 2,000 prosecutions under section 127 of the Communications Act covering online material and have said that “The fundamental principle for internet-hosted material is that what is illegal offline is also illegal online."

Others on Twitter have mounted their own response, such as the @yesyoureracist account operated by Logan Smith. Writing for The Independent last year, Smith said he started the account “to disabuse people of the myth of a post-racial society one tweet at a time.”

"The most disturbing thing about @YesYoureRacist isn’t the racism itself," says Logan. "It’s that the people I retweet - the vast majority of which appear to be teenagers - genuinely don’t understand whether they’re being racist."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Infrastructure Engineer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking to find a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

    £21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

    Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

    £50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss