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Rage in the Machine: Activation of Racist Content in Social Media

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2023

Sebastián Vallejo Vera*
Sebastián Vallejo Vera is a profesor investigador in the Escuela de Ciencias Sociales y Gobierno, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico.


Racism in social media is ubiquitous, persisting online in ways unique to the internet while also reverberating from the world offline. When will racist frames activate in social media networks? This article argues that social media users engage with racist content when they perceive a threat to the in-group status, selecting frames that serve as markers to separate the in-group identity from the out-group identity. Racialized frames serve as these markers, and the perceived threats to the in-group status make racist content cognitively congruent. Evidence of this behavior is provided by examining Twitter activity during the indígena protests in Ecuador in October 2019. A novel, multistep machine-learning process detects racist tweets, and an interrupted time series analysis shows how events that can be perceived as threats to the in-group activate racist content in some social media communities.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the University of Miami

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Conflicts of Interest: The author declares that there are no conflicts of interest.


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