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Cyberbullying against Asian people skyrockets 900% in wake of pandemic

Hateful online abuse targeting Asian people has increased by a monstrous 900% since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to a report.

The Israeli startup L1ght, which tracks online hate speech and cyberbullying, reported that as people have begun spending more time on social networks, gaming services, and chat rooms, hate speech has increased across the board.

Chinese people and those of Asian descent have been particularly affected as the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, spread, the report found.

“Much of this hate and abuse is being directed towards China and its population, as well as individuals of Asian origin in other parts of the world,” the report said. “Toxic tweets are using explicit language to accuse Asians of carrying the coronavirus and blaming people of Asian origin as a collective for spreading the virus.”

The report also noted a shift in jargon on sites like Twitter, where there was an increase in hashtag searches connecting China to coronavirus.

Ron Porat, the chief technology officer and co-founder of L1ght, told Digital Trends the report had been tracking online activity relating COVID-19-inspired hate speech since December 2.

He especially noted the alarming increase in traffic on hate sites, which are places that are hard to stumble across on the open internet, he said.

“These are not places people usually go,” he told Digital Trends. “It’s not like you can fall on these randomly. There are places where it takes effort to get there.”

The report also noted a growing trend of general toxicity since the onset of the pandemic, including a 70% increase in toxicity between kids and teens online.

“It is deeply concerning that instigators of hate are exploiting this time of crisis to reach out to new audiences with their offensive content — including children,”  said Zohar Levkovitz, CEO and Co-Founder of L1ght in a statement. “Big tech companies and hosting providers have a responsibility to filter out online toxicity and they must act now.”

Levkovitz said social distancing has deprived many of support networks they may rely on normally.

“Their response to bullying, violence and hate speech becomes more extreme in a time of isolation,” he said. “With a return to a regular routine unlikely to take place anytime soon, this problem is only set to intensify.”

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