People gather at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine during a "Service of Prayer and Witness Against Anti-Asian Violence" in the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings, in New York City, US, March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Then-President Donald Trump's first tweet about a "Chinese virus" triggered a rise in anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter, a study has found.
Screenshot from Twitter
The peer-reviewed study, published Wednesday by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, found that the March 16, 2020, tweet was directly responsible for a major increase in anti-Asian hashtags.
Trump went on to use the term repeatedly on Twitter and in person through the end of his presidency. At the time of his tweet, there were 153,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and several US states had introduced emergency measures.
The researchers analyzed nearly 700,000 tweets that used either "#covid19" or "#chinesevirus" from March 9 to March 23. They said half of the tweets that used "#chinesevirus" and 20% of tweets that used "#covid19" showed anti-Asian sentiment.
"When comparing the week before March 16, 2020, to the week after, there was a significantly greater increase in anti-Asian hashtags associated with #chinesevirus compared with #covid19," they wrote.
The use of terms like "Chinese virus" and "kung flu," which Trump publicly said at a rally in June, have come alongside a rise in racist sentiment toward Asians in the US.
An Ipsos survey conducted in late April found that more than 30% of Americans said they had witnessed someone blaming people of Asian descent for the coronavirus pandemic. A study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino found that attacks against Asians in the US increased by 150% in 2020.
Last July, John C. Yang, the president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told Insider that terms like kung flu resulted in physical and verbal abuse toward Asians.
"That term plays on a racist stereotype in itself and is being used to stigmatize a community regarding a medical issue that all of the world should be rallying around," Yang said.
"We should not be trying to find terms that alienate communities and harms communities even further than the health crisis that we are already in."
At a congressional hearing on Thursday into the rising violence against Asian Americans, Rep. Grace Meng said Trump and other Republican Party figures had put a "a bull's-eye on the back of Asian Americans across this country."
The issue of anti-Asian violence made headlines again last week after a white gunman shot dead eight people, six of whom were Asian, in the Atlanta area on Tuesday.