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Online Hate Research Series

Download a copy of our paper published in Journal of Applied Communication Research


The origination of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China has led to growing xenophobia in the United States, with many Americans blaming China, and Asians more generally, for “allowing” the coronavirus to “escape” into a worldwide pandemic. The study featured in this white paper explored Americans’ awareness and perceptions of increasing anti- Asian attitudes during COVID-19. Additionally, we examined if enactment of resilience strategies in response to the recent upsurge in online harassment of Asians on social media influenced people's self-reported mental health during the pandemic.

Using a nationally representative online survey of 1,767 respondents that oversampled Asian Americans, we found that while Asian and non- Asian Americans reported no differences in the overall disruptive force of COVID-19, in terms of their quality of life, physical health, or (un)employment, Asian Americans did report experiencing significantly higher levels of negative emotions. Asian Americans were also acutely more aware of pandemic-related racial harassment compared to non-Asians.

Asian Americans' elevated awareness of online harassment fueled a significant mediation effect: Compared to non-Asians, Asians who perceived the threat of online pandemic-related harassment were more likely to enact resilience in response, which was in turn

associated with increases in self-reported psychological health.


Although several studies have documented the recent increase in anti-Asian hate speech on social media during the pandemic, we know comparatively less about how Asian Americans themselves see this problem. One important factor expected to affect how Asian Americans perceive and respond to rising online racial hate speech is their ethnic identity. As the "frame" through which many minorities learn to identify themselves, ethnic identity can strongly influence how people interpret their larger social world and their place within it.


We surveyed 269 Asian Americans on five dimensions of ethnic identity and found key differences: First, Asian Americans differed on the extent to which they considered their ethnicity to be a central component of their self-concept. They also differed in evaluations of their ethnic ingroups, with some reporting more positive (pride, acceptance) and others more negative (inferiority, shame) attitudes.


Our findings revealed that those who felt a stronger sense of ethnic self-concept and who held more positive attitudes toward Asian American ingroups reported (a) increased awareness of COVID-19-related online racial hate speech and (b) stronger self-reported enactment of resilience communication during the pandemic.


Download a copy of our Ethnic Identity and Online Racial Hate Speech white paper


Image by Claudio Schwarz

Download a copy of our paper published in Social Media + Society

The rise of anti-Asian hate speech during the pandemic provided a natural context to study how social media users respond to racial hate speech online. Given the growing multicultural composition of the United States (and many nations), we examined how observers’ expectations about members of different racial/ethnic groups influence their judgments of racial hate speech.


Notably, we were interested in understanding how White social media users would interpret online racial hate speech, depending on whether it was posted by a fellow ingroup member (i.e., White person) or by a member of a non-Asian minority group. We focused on the reactions and evaluations of White adults in the United States, as they are positioned to serve as allies against racial injustice. Essentially, we conducted an experiment to address the questions, if White observers “see something” online, will they “say something” or “do something” and if so, what? 

Follow the link below to read additional details featured on the London School of Economic's USA Public Policy Blog (LSE USAPP).

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