Washington Post Studies Harassment Within STAR WARS Fandom

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We’ve reported on many aspects of the so-called “toxic fandom” surrounding Star Wars lately. There have been death threats to director Rian Johnson, and Internet trolls forcing Daisey Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran off social media. But who is doing the hating? A recent Washington Post study provides some insight.

Bethany Lacina, an associate professor of political science at the University of Rochester, recently conducted a study to see how prevalent online hate and harassment really is among the Star Wars fan base. The results were, distressingly, not surprising.

Methodology of the Washington Post Study

Lacina began her study by collecting thousands of tweets for proclaimed Star Wars fans. Using a set of computer algorithms, she looked for positive and negative attitudes, offensive language, hate speech, and the aforementioned threats of violence. The results unfortunately won’t shock anyone; Toxic Twitter users more frequently use offensive language when talking about women and minorities, and when interacting with female fans.

Through the study, she found that tweets using the keywords “Star Wars” or “Last Jedi” contained offensive language around 6% of the time. Hate speech, thankfully, was much less prevalent. Users tweeted hate speech only 1% of the time. (Lacina notes, however, that this is likely under-reported, as such tweets are typically removed immediately for policy violations.)

Bots Less Likely to Hate; Politics Less a Factor than Expected

Surprisingly, and sadly, the Washington Post study showed that humans doubled the amount of “bot” tweets containing offensive language. We know that the political right has been most vocal about the perceived “social justice” agenda of The Last Jedi. When it comes to tweets, however, it’s difficult to discern political parties based on the data. Twitter is full of equal-opportunity haters, with harassment coming from the left and the right.

A good deal of the harassment is also measurably racist. Abusive tweets relating to Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran doubled. Hate speech-filled tweets about the actress jumped an astonishing 60%.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

For any “real” or “true” fan of Star Wars, the Washington Post study results should be very distressing. You’re free to like, or dislike, the film and its characters; that’s your perogative. But if you’re filled with that much vitriol and hate? Go see a therapist and get help. Until then, it’s up to the rest of us to prove this vocal minority does not represent the greater Star Wars fandom.

Source: Washington Post