- The Anti-Defamation League said online hate speech aimed at Asian Americans rose last year.
- Rhetoric from President Donald Trump and other leaders fueled the rise, a study said.
- ADL saw an “85% increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter” after Trump got COVID-19.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As President Donald Trump and other US officials last year referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” the “Kung Flu,” and other incendiary nicknames, a chorus of commentators warned that their rhetoric would lead to an increase in harassment and hateful speech.
“There is no blame in this,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director at the World Health Organization, when asked about Trump’s language in March 2020.
Now, a newly published study by the Anti-Defamation League has shown that the pandemic corresponded with a rise in hate speech and harassment on social networks aimed at Asian Americans. While it’s difficult to quantify the effects of the president’s comments, the study said some of that rise could be attributed to Trump’s statements.
Online harassment aimed at Asian Americans jumped about six percentage points in 2020 and early 2021, the largest rise for any group of people during the same period, according to a study published this week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL.)
About 17% of Asian Americans reported “severe” online harassment, up from 11% in the same earlier period, according to the study. In the same time period, online harassment reported by all Americans on social networks dipped about three points.
The survey added to previously published data about the rise of anti-Asian American speech since the start of the pandemic. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco said this month that Trump’s first tweet with the term “China virus” triggered a rise in anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter.
The ADL study also linked the rise in anti-Asian American sentiment on social networks and in the real world directly to Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric” about the coronavirus.
“The spike in physical violence against Asian-Americans across the nation was whipped up in large part by bigotry and conspiracy theories that grew online, fanned by national leaders,” including Trump, the study said.
ADL said its researchers saw an “85 percent increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter” after news broke that Trump had COVID-19.
Late last year, Twitter updated its policies around hate speech, saying in part it had developed “longer, more in-depth” training for its internal teams.
ADL said such efforts by tech companies haven’t yet made a difference.
“Although technology companies insist they have taken robust action to address users’ safety and remove harmful content throughout the past year, this report finds scant difference in the number of Americans who experienced online hate and harassment,” said the study released this week.
Since Trump departed office, there’s been an uptick in leaders voicing concern about hate speech and violence toward Asian Americans.
On January 26, a few days after Biden took office, he issued a memo condemning hate speech against Asian Americans. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he commended President Joe Biden for taking a stance against xenophobia toward Asian Americans.
“President Trump weaponized racism and xenophobia in 2020 by calling COVID-19 the ‘Kung Flu Virus’ and we are still witnessing increased hate speech and violence as a result,” Krishnamoorthi said.