Roughly every 9 seconds, someone sends out a potentially racist tweet.
A new study from the British think tank Demos offers the first in-depth look at racially-charged language on Twitter, finding some 10,000 tweets per day that use language that might be considered offensive.
But as it turns out, many of those tweets may not be derogatory.
For example, roughly half of the tweets involve “white boy,” which isn’t always racially charged. Others are potentially racist words used in a non-derogatory way, including “appropriated” words. That’s when a hateful word is used by members of the group it’s directed against to describe themselves as well as their friends and other members of the community.”
As a result, up to 70 percent of the tweets that use racist language may not be derogatory, and only between 500 and 2,000 tweets per day are directed at an individual and clearly abusive.
“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,” study author Jamie Bartlett told the Daily Mail.
On the other hand, some tweets might be called racist without actually using racially-charged language — and those would escape the study. Or, as the report puts it: “Language does not require the use of slurs in order to be hateful.”
Twitter told the Mail that it does not screen content or remove anything potentially offensive, and that only tweets that violate its terms of service, such as direct threats, are removed.
You can download a PDF of the study here.