From Hashtag to Hate Crime: Twitter and Anti-Minority Sentiment
93 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018 Last revised: 24 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 24, 2020
We study whether social media can contribute to hatred against minorities with a focus on Donald Trump's political rise. To establish causality, we construct an instrument for Twitter usage based on the platform's early adopters at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in 2007, who were crucial for Twitter's diffusion across US counties. Instrumenting with the home counties of SXSW followers who joined in March 2007, while controlling for the counties of SXSW followers who joined before the festival, we find that a one standard deviation increase in Twitter usage is associated with a 32% larger increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes since the 2016 presidential primaries. Further, Trump's tweets about Islam-related topics predict increases in xenophobic tweets by his followers, cable news attention paid to Muslims, and hate crimes on the following days. These correlations persist in an instrumental variable framework exploiting that Trump is more likely to tweet about Muslims on days he plays golf.
Keywords: Social Media, Twitter, Hate Crimes, Minorities, Muslims
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