Islamophobia lights up twitter: Heat map shows post-Brexit, Brussels hate tweet surge

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Islamophobic messages in the UK tripled in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks and spiked again post-Brexit, according to a British think-tank which has been mapping instances of online hate speech.

Demos, the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, has been researching Islamophobia on Twitter in the aftermath of the bombings in the Belgian capital.The think-tank then furthered its research to look at the impact the EU referendum result had on xenophobia and racism on Twitter.

Heat maps visually illustrating the spikes in relevant activity have been posted online by research director at the organisation, Carl Miller.

The independent charity found that the number of Islamophobic messages increased threefold after the Brussels airport bombings last March which left 32 people dead.

Some 60,000 tweets were posted the week after the attacks by people in Britain using words considered Islamophobic, according to Demos’ research. Almost 5,000 of these were deemed to be  “angry, severely derogatory and explicitly anti-Islamic”.

READ MORE:Brussels attacks: #StopIslam trending worldwide as Twitter reacts to bombings 

Demos uses software that recognises abusive language on social media .The data also shows a clear spike in anti-Islamic messages following the mass shooting in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

The organization’s post-Brexit research was included in Monday night’s episode of Channel Four’s Dispatches entitled Racist Britain.

They logged more than 13,000 tweets that could be classed as xenophobic and racist in the week after the EU referendum result.

They also noted 2,413 original posts of hateful incidents, which were shared over 14,000 times.

Racist messages, however, were highly contested by other online users and many expressed their solidarity with migrants. The #SafetyPin of support was used 44,003 times in the week after the Brexit result.

"So one of the most fascinating things is two really key hashtags that we couldn’t have anticipated beforehand sprung up in the wake of the Brexit vote,” Miller said.

“You had #SafetyPin, which was broadly being used to show solidarity with migrants, and you had #PostRefRacism, which was being used to raise awareness of xenophobia and racism including on the streets - those two hashtags together we’ve almost got 100,000 tweets going from June 25 through to July 4.”

Immigration was also found to be one of the main talking points online ahead of the referendum vote. As many as 258,553 tweets sent from the UK talked about migrants and refugees during the Brexit campaign.

Leave campaigners were more active online than Remain campaigners ahead of the vote. 97,000 ‘Remain’ tweets were posted in the days before the votes compared to 13,000 from the ‘Leave’ side.

The research follows on from police reports of a 42 percent spike in hate crime following the EU referendum.

According to figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) the dates June 16-30 saw reports of racially-motivated or prejudicial crimes rise by 915 compared to the same period last year.

On June 25, as many as 289 offences were brought to the attention of police.

READ MORE:#PostRefRacism: Twitter documents appalling rise of post-Brexit racism