As the coronavirus spread across the globe last February, the World Health Organization urged people to avoid terms like the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chinese virus,” fearing it could spike a backlash against Asians.
President Donald Trump didn’t take the advice. On March 16, 2020, he first tweeted the phrase “Chinese virus.”
That single tweet, researchers later found, fueled exactly the kind of backlash the WHO had feared: It was followed by an avalanche of tweets using the hashtag #chinesevirus, among other anti-Asian phrases.
“The week before Trump’s tweet the dominant term [on Twitter] was #covid-19,” Yulin Hswen, an epidemiology professor at the University of California at San Francisco and a co-author of the study, told The Washington Post. “The week after his tweet, it was #chinesevirus.”
Hswen is among a group of researchers who analyzed hundreds of thousands of #covid-19 and #chinesevirus hashtags drafted the week before and after Trump first referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” on the social media platform.
Not only did more people use the #chinesevirus hashtag days after Trump’s tweet, but those who did were more likely to include other anti-Asian hashtags in their tweets, according to the peer-reviewed study published by the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday. [Continue reading…]