Online harassment is a growing societal problem. Although online harassment, or cyber aggression, has begun to receive attention, little research systematically explores the common themes found in hostile messages. In this project, we focused on online harassment directed towards women of color. We applied social network methodology and text clustering (topic analysis) to messages posted on the social media platform Twitter. We examined the occurrence of aggressive, harmful Twitter messages directed towards two groups—Hispanic/Latinx women and Black women. Next, we uncovered common themes that emerged within the communications. Messages towards both groups of women contained themes of racial stereotypes. In tweets that targeted Black women, one emergent theme concerned charges of promiscuity, where messages included slurs that accused Black women of being overly sexual. In messages containing Latinx slurs, on the other hand, xenophobia was one recurring topic, with common terms related to menial labor and political comments invoking the need to “build a wall.” Both groups of women also were subjected to feminine, attractiveness insults. Findings suggest that these negative communications are not idiosyncratic in nature, but instead routinely reinforce traditional, negative, race and gender stereotypes. As a result, these hostile messages contribute to the maintenance of race and gender inequality.
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The datasets generated during and analyzed during the current study were collected via the Twitter Application Programmer Interface and cannot be shared. They represent third-party data and are restricted by Twitter’s terms of service. However, we provided details of the search parameters used to construct the datasets in the Methods section.
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This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under IGERT Grant DGE-1144860, Big Data Social Science.
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Francisco, S.C., Felmlee, D.H. What Did You Call Me? An Analysis of Online Harassment Towards Black and Latinx Women. Race Soc Probl 14, 1–13 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-021-09330-7