Online hate for Asian Americans rises, US survey

Megan Nguyen (center) and Emily Nguyen demonstrate techniques during a self-defense training class in Garden Grove, California, on Tuesday, in response to violence against Asian Americans. [Photo/Agencies]

NEW YORK, March 26 (China Daily/ANN) - Asian Americans have suffered the biggest spike in serious incidents of online hate and harassment compared with other groups in the United States, an annual survey released on Wednesday shows.

About 17 percent of Asian Americans surveyed by the Anti-Defamation League said that they experienced severe online harassment compared with the 11 percent reported last year, It was the largest uptick in comparison to other groups, according to the ADL, which monitors the activities of domestic and international hate groups.

The survey defines severe online harassment as sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats and sustained harassment as well as swatting and doxing-the latter two refer to false police reports and the disclosure of someone's personal details, respectively.

Half of the Asian-American respondents who were harassed said it was because of their race or identity. Overall, 21 percent of Asian-American respondents said they were harassed online.

The survey of 2,251 people conducted by YouGov, a public opinion and data analytics firm, shows that racist incidents against the Asian community aren't just happening offline.

"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 former president (Donald) Trump's incendiary rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic and referring to the virus as the 'China plague' or 'kung flu'," researchers said.

Anti-Asian sentiment increased 85 percent on Twitter after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 last fall, the report said. Trump also used the term "China virus" in several interviews.

Asian Americans experienced the most harassment on Facebook, followed by Twitter, Instagram and Google-owned YouTube, the report said.

700,000 tweets

A study published on March 17 by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco tracked nearly 700,000 tweets that used either the neutral hashtag "#covid19" or"#chinesevirus" from March 9 to March 23,2020.

Researchers found evidence of an association between the hashtag#chinesevirus and anti-Asian language. Twenty percent of tweets that used "#covid19" showed anti-Asian sentiment, compared with 50 percent of tweets that used the hashtag#chinesevirus.

Trump's use of the phrase in his speeches and on Twitter coincided with an increase in its use by others online, the report said. The mean number of daily users in the #covid19 group rose by 379 percent after Trump's tweet, compared with an increase of #chinesevirus by 8,351 percent, the report said.

The World Health Organization warned in 2015 that naming diseases after specific areas or ethnic groups can perpetuate xenophobia around the globe.

The WHO announced the official name COVID-19 for the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus on Feb 11,2020. COVID-19 is an abbreviation of "coronavirus disease 2019". "CO" stands for corona,"VI" for virus and "D" for disease.

The WHO, as well as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued guidelines for this usage, warning against linking the disease to a specific place or area. Asian-American communities have warned for several months that political leaders' linking COVID-19 to China could lead to violence.

ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said the findings, which come amid a growing outcry over the rise in attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide, show that efforts to curb surging anti-Asian sentiment by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have fallen short.

The report was issued the day before the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter were expected to appear virtually before the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee to address how false information around the pandemic and the election spreads online and to discuss their handling of misinformation, disinformation and other harmful content.

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