Asian Americans faced biggest rise in online hate in 2020, survey finds

Asian Americans faced biggest rise in online hate in 2020, survey finds
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Asian Americans experienced the biggest rise in severe online hate and harassment in the past year in comparison to other groups, a new survey released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found.

According to the survey, which was released on Wednesday, 17 percent of Asian Americans polled said they experienced sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats, swatting, doxing or sustained harassment over the past year — a 6 percent from those who said the same the prior year.

Half of Asian American respondents who said they were harassed also said they were harassed due to their race or ethnicity.


The new data comes despite recent efforts made by social media companies to combat hate speech, and as the nation has seen a surge in anti-Asian attacks reported since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States a year ago.

Last week, lawmakers raised alarm over the spike in such attacks in the wake of a shooting spree in Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six Asian women. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, a few Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Grace MengGrace MengHouse Democrats include immigration priorities as they forward DHS funding bill Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer House sends anti-Asian hate bill to Biden's desk MORE (D-N.Y.), called out former President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE in particular for using terms like “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu” to refer to the coronavirus, saying the charged rhetoric helped contribute to a rise in anti-Asian attacks.

In its recent report, the ADL said that the rise in physical violence against Asian-Americans in the nation was “whipped up in large part by bigotry and conspiracy theories that grew online, fanned by national leaders,” including what it referred to as Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic” and his use of the controversial terms for the coronavirus. 

The ADL also said the survey found “a sharp rise in online harassment of African-Americans based on their race, from 42 percent attributing their harassment to their race last year to 59 percent in this year’s survey.” 


On Facebook alone, the organization said “derogatory posts against African-Americans quadrupled” in the wake of the fatal police killing of George Floyd in May, which sparked months of continued protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

“They stayed elevated until September, when the pace of protests slowed,” the organization said of the posts. 

The survey included troubling findings for other groups as well. 

The survey showed that 64 percent of LGBTQ-identifying respondents reported overall harassment this past year, making it the third in the row the bloc has reported higher rates of overall harassment than any other demographic, the organization said.

Thirty-six percent of Jewish respondents reported experiencing online harassment in the survey, compared to 20 percent from the previous year. Thirty-six percent of Muslim respondents also reported experiencing severe harassment online this past year. 

Forty-one percent of Americans overall reported experiencing some form of online hate and harassment in the new survey. More than a quarter of respondents that reported experiencing harassment said they were targeted due to their race or ethnicity.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the organization, said in a statement that the survey “shows that even as technology companies insist that they are taking unprecedented steps to moderate hateful content on their social media platforms, the user experience hasn’t changed all that much.”

“Americans of many different backgrounds continue to experience online hate and harassment at levels that are totally unacceptable,” Greenbaldt said. “And not surprisingly, after a year where national figures including the president himself routinely scapegoated China and Chinese people for spreading the coronavirus, Asian-Americans experienced heightened levels of harassment online, just as they did offline.”

An overwhelming majority of respondents said they think social media platforms need to step up their actions to combat online hate.

In conjunction with the survey’s release, the ADL said it is also announcing an effort, dubbed the REPAIR Plan, to “hold platforms and individual perpetrators accountable for enabling online hate and extremism.”

The ADL said the survey was conducted by YouGov online between Jan. 7-15, 2021, and polled 2,251 individuals. The organization said the results were weighted and “are representative of all Americans 18 and older.” It said the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

The organization added that it also “included oversamples of respondents who identified as Jewish, Muslim, African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Latino, and LGBTQ+” in the survey in “an effort to understand the experiences of individuals who may be especially targeted because of their group identity.”