The interactive maps are based on a keyword search of geotagged tweets. Students from Humboldt State checked each tweet for a negative, positive, or neutral connotation, ultimately identifying more than 150,000 hateful tweets with this location info. Each negative tweet was totaled by county and then normalized by comparing that to the county's total tweets, enabling the Floating Sheep geographers to identify places with "disproportionately high amounts" of hateful tweets.
Here's their map for racism:
And one for homophobia:
The researchers point out that hateful tweets are broadly distributed, writing that: "when viewing the map at a broad scale, it's best not to be covered with the blue smog of hate, as even the lower end of the scale includes the presence of hateful tweeting activity." They add that there are clear and distressing pockets of hate tweets, and conclude:
Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated.
In May 2011, I wrote about the geography of hate groups at The Atlantic. At the time, I found hate groups (as opposed to hate speech or hate tweets) to be concentrated in Montana and Mississippi, as well as Arkansas, Wyoming, and Idaho. The Northeast, Great Lakes, and the West Coast had far smaller concentrations of hate groups. I also found hate groups to follow "the more general sorting of America by politics and ideology, religion, education, income levels, and class."
All images courtesy of Floating Sheep.