Reviving the “Yellow Peril” Digitally: Anti-Asian Hate on Twitter During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Fangjing Tu, Shanshan Jiang, Xue Gong


Racist sentiments against Asian, specifically Chinese, communities have risen alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. Combining Twitter data, employment data, and COVID-19 case data, this study uses interrupted time series analysis and traditional time series analysis to investigate how the revival of anti-Asian sentiments on Twitter has been facilitated by the combination of elite discourse on social media, economic slowdown, and public health crises. Results suggest that tweets about the “Chinese virus” from former president Trump serve as elite cues that positively and significantly impact the spread of anti-Asian hate on Twitter. This correlation is unidirectional. In addition, newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and unemployment rates are also positively correlated with the increase in anti-Asian hate tweets. The results draw attention to how the historical racialization of Asian populations has been extended to the social media arena during the public health crisis.


anti-Asian racism, social media, public opinion, COVID-19, elite cues, unemployment

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