Tracked tweets reflect racist attitudes online, says of U of A researcher

Not sure the numbers are as bad as portrayed as they cover a three-month period, and the numbers are very low in terms of total number of tweets.

Compare this to comments in newspaper columns on immigration and multiculturalism, where my anecdotal observations indicate a fair number of offensive comments, depending on the article:

“In Canada, we’re so reluctant to talk about race and racism specifically so often times in public discourse it’s rarely ever brought up but when you shift to the online realm people are … freely being racist,” said Chaudhry, who will present his findings at the Social Media and Society International Conference in Toronto next month.

To conduct his research, Chaudhry flagged common racist terms coming out of Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.

In Calgary, as well as Edmonton and Winnipeg, the majority of comments were directed at the aboriginal community.

About 50 per cent of all the racist tweets were real-time observations, said Chaudhry.

“I’d always notice people complaining to Calgary transit about aboriginals in public spaces,” he said.

Overall, he said the number of Calgary-based racist tweets was low. Toronto accounted for 434; Vancouver had 99; Winnipeg had 78; Edmonton had 60; and Montreal had 43. In Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, the n-word was the most common racist term.

Darren Lund, a professor at the U of C’s the Werklund School of Education who researches social justice issues, said he was disheartened but not surprised by the findings.

“It seems that most of us have been raised in a way that even if we’re really nice, well-intentioned people, we’re still taught in some ways to think of aboriginal people as less than, or as flawed,” he said.

Tracked tweets reflect racist attitudes online, says of U of A researcher.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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