HomeBad Ass AsiansAsian Americans create Respond2Racism Twitter bot to combat COVID-19 hate

Asian Americans create Respond2Racism Twitter bot to combat COVID-19 hate

Using artificial intelligence, Twitter bot Respond2Racism identifies racist hashtags such as #chinesevirus and more, automatically sending a private message to educate the user, ABC7 reports.

The program, developed by Maria Lee and other Asian American partners at the San Francisco ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, was released in late May. It seeks to combat anti-Asian hate spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The creation of the bot was inspired by her family’s own experience with anti-Asian harassment, Fast Company reported.

Lee, a creative director at the ad agency, told Fast Company that her mother and brother experienced racism outside a grocery store and park.

After I saw them both shaken to the core, my heart just sank,” Lee said. “Then, honestly, anger got stirred up. Especially when my brother, a physician working up to 28 hours a shift to treat COVID-19 patients, was verbally attacked with all kinds of racial slurs. And words cut deep.”

On top of attempting to educate Twitter users who use discriminatory language in the dms, the bot sends video messages by Asian Americans. It also sends messages of affirmation to users who are already contributing to inclusion and anti-racist efforts online.

“With the whole quarantine, it’s easy to feel paralyzed,” Lee told ABC. By taking this initiative it makes us feel like there is an action. We can take action, even while we’re quarantined.”

The project works to “uplift” Asian front line workers and encourage those who are able to educate or confront others when they witness racism.

The reactions to Respond2Racism has been varied, Lee said, as some users are set in their beliefs. The bot works well on those who were previously unaware if they were using offensive terminology, which Lee described as a “small step.”

Moving forward, the project seeks to address “all backgrounds,” but is limited by Twitter policy, which flags bots. The hashtags also continue to evolve, increasing the need for more resources and support, she told ABC.

Goodby & Silverstein & Partners announced in its website that hate against Asian-presenting individuals is “spreading like wildfire,” citing increases in hate speech on Twitter.

“But hate is a virus we can fight,” the website read.

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