Online attacks against Asians in US rising this year

2021-03-25 12:06:01

  People walk through the streets of Chinatown in New York City on March 23, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] Asian Americans experienced the biggest spike in serious incidents of online hate and harassment compared with other groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League's annual survey published Wednesday. About 17 percent of Asian Americans surveyed said that they experienced severe online harassment compared with 11 percent last year, the largest uptick in comparison to other groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which monitors the activities of domestic and international hate groups. The survey defines severe online harassment as sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats, swatting, doxing and sustained harassment. 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 ADL survey of 2,251 individuals 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 Trump's incendiary rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic and referring to the virus as the 'China plague' or 'kung flu,'" researchers said in the report. Anti-Asian sentiment increased 85 percent on Twitter after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 last fall, the ADL 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, according to the survey. A study published March 17 by researchers at the University of California at 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 paralleled 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 (WHO) warned in 2015 that naming diseases after specific areas or ethnic groups can perpetuate xenophobia around the globe. 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 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 including Trump linking COVID-19 to China could lead to violence. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the survey's 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 Google's YouTube have fallen short. The report was issued the day before the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter will appear virtually before the House 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. In their released planned testimonies, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey plan to lay out how their companies have battled misinformation. "Our society is deeply divided, and we see that on our services too," Zuckerberg said in the remarks. In a statement, Facebook said it doesn't allow hate speech and removes content that attacks someone for who they are, their race, ethnicity or national origin. Anti-Asian hate crime increased 149 percent in 2020 in 16 of America's largest cities, according to research released in early March by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University. The first spike of anti-Asian crime occurred in March and April, when COVID-19 cases just started rising in the US. Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks discrimination and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, found nearly 3,800 reported hate incidents targeting Asian Americans in the past year. But those numbers are probably a small fraction of actual incidents, including crimes. One in 4 Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic, a new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds. The poll released on Sunday finds that while a majority of Americans believe the coronavirus pandemic is a natural disaster, around a quarter of Americans blame China for the pandemic. Democrats are almost twice as likely as Republicans to say they have seen blame directed at Asian people.