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Anti-Chinese Hate Speech Online Has Skyrocketed Since the Coronavirus Crisis Began

A new report says anti-Chinese hate speech on Twitter has skyrocketed by 900 percent in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The report comes from Israeli artificial intelligence startup L1ght, which used its technology to search the internet for increases in hate speech, cyberbullying, and general online toxicity. “According to our data, racist abuse is being…

Anti-Chinese Hate Speech Online Has Skyrocketed Since the Coronavirus Crisis Began

A new report says anti-Chinese hate speech on Twitter has skyrocketed by 900 percent in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report comes from Israeli artificial intelligence startup L1ght, which used its technology to search the internet for increases in hate speech, cyberbullying, and general online toxicity.

“According to our data, racist abuse is being targeted most explicitly against Asians, including Asian Americans,” the report says. “Toxic tweets are using explicit language to accuse Asians of carrying the coronavirus and blaming people of Asian origin as a collective for spreading the virus.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to questions about the report.

L1ght’a AI-powered system is designed to be used by websites, social networks, and other platforms to protect children from hate speech, cyberbullying, and other toxic content online. Its technology is already being used by governments and law enforcement agencies, including a number of police forces in the U.S.

The 900% increase is a staggering figure, and mirrors a huge spike in offline attacks on Asians during the coronavirus crisis, a spike that has been at least partly fueled by President Donald Trump’s insistence on calling the outbreak the “Chinese virus.”

Twitter isn’t the only online platform seeing a spike in hate speech and anti-Chinese behavior. L1ght analyzed millions of websites, social networks, teen chatting forums, and gaming sites from December until this week, examining text alongside images, videos, and voice recordings to identify increases in hate speech, cyberbullying, and general online toxicity.

The researchers found that because younger people had more time to spend online, there has been a 70% increase in hate speech between kids and teens using online chats, while there was a 40% uptick in abusive language on popular gaming platforms such as Discord.

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“It is deeply concerning that instigators of hate are exploiting this time of crisis to reach out to new audiences with their offensive content – including children,” Zohar Levkovitz, CEO and co-founder of L1ght, told VICE News. “Big tech companies and hosting providers have a responsibility to filter out online toxicity, and they must act now.”

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