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“You are a disgrace and traitor to our country”: incivility against “The Squad” on Twitter

Porismita Borah (Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA) (Democracy Research Unit, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain)
Kate Keib (Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Bryan Trude (University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Matthew Binford (Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina, USA)
Bimbisar Irom (Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)
Itai Himelboim (University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 15 March 2022

Issue publication date: 7 September 2022

573

Abstract

Purpose

For many, the sole source for news content is social media, where passionate opinions are posted at an alarming speed. These opinions can cross the line from differing opinions shared in a public forum onto uncivil dialogue and even hate speech. Such online discourse threatens democratic values and creates a hostile environment. The purpose of this paper is to examine such incivility using the case of four congresswomen known as “The Squad”.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a content analysis examining 20,563 replies to tweets sent by the four congresswomen. The social media data analysis and library, Brandwatch, was used to aggregate tweets posted by the four representatives, as well as all the replies posted to these tweets. The replies were coded to understand the types of incivility against each of the four congresswomen, whether the topics of a tweet can predict the types of incivility received in response, and the impact of Trump's tweet against the congresswomen.

Findings

The study findings show that the majority of replies contained uncivil language. The most common types of incivility are related to name-calling, stereotypes, threats to individual rights and vulgarity. Tweets about immigration and the Muslim ban, as well as tweets with negative tones received more replies. Following Donald Trump's Twitter attack on the representatives, replies to the congresswomen's tweets almost doubled. Mainly two types of incivility were observed to have increased significantly – the use of stereotypes and threats to individual rights.

Originality/value

The study examines incivility on Twitter against four black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) congresswomen as an exploratory case to observe and understand the growing phenomenon of uncivil language which feeds a polarized society and threatens democratic values. “The Squad” is more than an isosteric case study. It captures key changes in American politics. In the context of democratic discourse, the attack by the former president on these congresswomen and the response on social media address key issues of gender, religion and race in the United States.

Keywords

Citation

Borah, P., Keib, K., Trude, B., Binford, M., Irom, B. and Himelboim, I. (2022), "“You are a disgrace and traitor to our country”: incivility against “The Squad” on Twitter", Internet Research, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1646-1661. https://doi.org/10.1108/INTR-06-2021-0363

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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