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UNSW study finds link between Twitter and domestic violence


A new study has laid bare the horrifying impact misogynistic social media posts such “Make me a sandwich, sl*t” can have.

Areas where misogynistic tweeting is rife also have more cases of domestic and family violence, a disturbing new study has found.

Researchers from UNSW found the connection between tweets and domestic violence was still the case even when alcohol and inequality, which are likely drivers, came into play.

Examples of misogynistic tweets identified by the researchers included: ‘Women are all b*tches’, ‘Wh*re had it coming’, and ‘Make me a sandwich, sl*t’.

Professor Tom Denson from UNSW’s School of Psychology said these types of tweets are far from harmless.

“It contributes to norms of violence toward women and a hostile worldview that may slip into real-world violence,” he said in the report.

“I imagine a lot of people are fairly flippant about what is posted on social media.”

He said the study highlights how people should be cautious before posting such content, warning that even if the person who posts something of this nature isn’t violent, those who read it might be.

“Such posts seem to create an atmosphere where violence toward women may be more likely,” professor Denson said.

The landmark study drew on data from local law enforcement agencies in the US to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on arrests for domestic and family violence, between 2013 and 2014.

They also collected data on factors known to influence domestic and family violence, like alcohol, income inequality, gender inequality, and population size.

“We then collected Twitter data from 2013-2014,” professor Denson said.

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“Twitter makes a randomly selected one per cent of their tweets publicly available.

“We coded those tweets for misogynistic content using automated methods and used a geolocation algorithm to locate the origin of the tweets, which we were able to do with a pretty high degree of spatial specificity based on US Census Bureau defined areas.”

The researchers ended up with tweets from 827 areas in 47 American states.

“We then combined the data sets and used the number of misogynistic tweets in each area to examine the relationship between misogynistic tweets and domestic and family violence arrests, while controlling for things like alcohol availability, population, and inequality,” he explained.

Study authors believe the research could help unpack where domestic violence is likely to occur, and how perpetrators target movements like #MeToo and the March for Women.



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