Published on 09 March 2021
An analysis for HuffPost UK carried out by digital journalism researchers at our University captured overtly sexist and racist tweets mentioning the Duchess of Sussex.
Among the tweets were phrases such as “royal bimbo Meghan”, “the woke Meghan bint” and “poisonous cow”.
She was also described as a “calculating b..ch”, a “manipulative b..ch” and a “pompous classless b..ch”.
The vast majority of the tweets featured sexist trolling, but a handful also contained overtly racist sentiment. One message described her as a “self-loathing race traitor”, while another labelled her “meghan the queen, of monkey island”.
She was also labelled a “whore”, “slut” and “witch”, among other terms.
Journalism and computer science researchers at Sunderland set up a program using negative sentiment analysis to capture all tweets mentioning variations of Meghan Markle’s name and a selection of commonly used misogynistic and racist terms of abuse.
Around 400 tweets captured were in the most severe category of abuse.
The team are working as part of a Google Digital News Innovation Fund project to build open software to help journalists investigate social media behaviour. The researchers previously investigated trolling of female MPs during the 2017 general election.
Journalism lecturers Neil Macfarlane and Dr John Price are working on the project with computer science academics Dr Sardar Jaf, Professor Lynne Hall, Dr Kate MacFarlane and Sophie Ketiku.
The royal couple announced their desire to scale down commitments and become financially independent on the evening of January 8, 2020. The sample of tweets was collected until midnight the following day. A number of the tweets have since been removed from the platform.
Dr John Price, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Sunderland, said: “These results give a sense of the levels of abuse that have been published about Meghan Markle in the days after the announcement.
“There will be many more tweets not captured in the study, as racism and misogyny are often expressed in more subtle terms that do not use overtly abusive language.
“The vast amount of abuse captured in these findings is startling. It shows that aspects of social media, such as Twitter, have become a haven for people wishing to express hatred against women.”
The program captured tweets that mentioned one of seven variations of Meghan Markle’s name or associated hashtags, and any terms from a list of 380 racist and misogynistic keywords. Results were then refined to focus only on those using the abusive terms to be specifically critical of the duchess.