Islamophobia on Twitter

New online big data research by the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos think tank has found significant spikes in the use of anti-Islamic language on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of news events, particularly terrorist attacks.

Many of the Tweets identified as derogatory and anti-Islamic included specific references to recent acts of violence and attacked entire Muslim communities in the context of terrorism.

Key findings:

  • 215,246 Islamophobic tweets were sent in July 2016 – an average of 289 per hour
  • Spikes in anti-Islamic language are strongly correlated to current events – particularly acts of terrorism – with the largest number of abusive Tweets sent on the day after the Nice attacks
  • Islamophobia on Twitter is increasing month on month – with July the highest rate since Demos’ dedicated analysis began in March

The largest spikes within the month of July were:

  • July 15: the day immediately following a terrorist attack in Nice, France (21,190 tweets)
  • July 8: the day after the shooting of police officers in Dallas, U.S. (11,320 tweets)
  • July 17: the day after an attempted military coup in Turkey (10,610 tweets)
  • July 5: the end of Ramadan and four days after a siege of a café in Bangladesh by IS militants (9,220 tweets)
  • July 26: the day of an IS attack on a church in Normandy, France (8,950 tweets)

Demos has been analysing global twitter activity since March 2016, and in July recorded the highest volume of Islamophobic activity online of any month yet, with over 200,000 anti-Islamic tweets in English.

  • Since March 2016, Demos has found an average of 4,972 Islamophobic tweets are sent per day
  • In the wake of an IS attack in Brussels, a particularly high volume was recorded in March
  • This rate dropped sharply between March and April but has increased month-on month since, with July having the highest rate of any month analysed.

Demos was also able to geo-locate many of the tweets collected and found Islamophobic tweets originating in every EU member state. As only tweets in English were recorded, the majority were traced to English speaking countries, however outside the UK significant concentrations were identified in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

A timelapse video of Islamophobic tweets sent in the UK for the four days surrounding the terrorist attack in Nice (12/7 – 16/7) is available to watch below:

The full methodological paper can be downloaded here.

Media contact:

Philippa Alway, Demos
[email protected]
Ph. 0207 367 4200

Notes to Editors

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. Visit: demos.co.uk

The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at Demos is conducting continuous research on hateful, xenophobic, anti-disability, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic ideas and expressions on Twitter. This is part of a broad effort to understand the scale, scope and nature of uses of social media that are possibly socially problematic and damaging.