For Immediate Release
August 12, 2021
Contact: Solice Scott, 202.244.4450, [email protected]
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc. (SOVAW), has published its interim research on how social media played a role in calling for a ban of Critical Race Theory (CRT) from K-12 curriculum. CRT examines the intersection of race and law in the U.S., and was birthed by civil rights and legal scholars 40 years ago. Twenty-six states have recently introduced bills that would restrict the teaching of CRT and also control how teachers discuss racism and sexism in their classrooms. Much of the pushback has also come from former President Trump, who called for patriotic education, limiting diversity training and discussion of “divisive” topics for federal employees, while in office.
“Through our research, we have found that extremist voices from Conservative media have dominated the online discussions and that Black scholarship, which teaches Critical Race Theory in higher academic institutions, has been silenced,” Mitchell said. “Much of this is due to the virality of actors on the political right as they leverage Critical Race Theory for political propaganda.”
Thus far, SOVAW has looked at 10% of over 40,000 pieces of content on Facebook and over a year of tweets that focus on CRT. The media content that is shared over both platforms is predominantly Conservative, which indicates that there is a Conservative bias with regard to content that targets Black identity and that it includes low factual content. In what appears to be a coordinated information campaign to attack Black scholarship, the Organization has also found that actors involved with criticizing CRT developed infrastructure (e.g. 501(c)(3) nonprofits and businesses) prior to the spike in activity in September 2020, including the release of the 1619 Project in the New York Times Magazine in August 2019.
“Gathering data from Twitter and Facebook through quantitative and qualitative analysis of Critical Race Theory, we found an initial spike of Twitter activity mentioning Critical Race Theory reaching almost 150,000 tweets, with further activity never exceeding 60,000 tweets,” Mitchell said. “Mentions on Facebook during the same period initially spiked with 125,000 posts and have steadily increased beyond 400,000 posts. This tells us that Facebook is the dominant platform for discussions related to Critical Race Theory.”
SOVAW also found that Black-identified CRT Facebook posts were only 2.8% of the overall posts and only shared at .9%. Black Liberal, Progressive and AntiRacist pages overall comprised 39% of the posts and 42.25% of the shares. However, Black Conservative pages comprised 22% of the posts and 42.5% shares. Notably, despite the fewer number of posts, the Black Conservative posts were shared almost equally in their reach on the platform with Black Liberal/Progressive.
These key findings demonstrate how media outlets, organizations, and political personalities that are focused on CRT narratives are distributed on these social media platforms. Anti-CRT content, which includes mostly misinformation, has the most interactions. Pro-CRT content, which includes Black scholars and facts about CRT, are getting very few impressions on the platforms.
Importantly, the data highlight that mainstream media in the U.S. have taken a backseat and rather than taking a proactive, essential stance based on data are simply perpetuating and amplifying the anti-CRT discourse. In turn, they are unwillingly or perhaps unintentionally helping to drive disinformation, discrimination, and marginalization of Black Scholarship, while suppressing the truth about the Black American experience in reference to CRT. Without a significant shift in discourse and approach, we are stuck in an endless loop of rhetoric and untruths within a loosely-veiled political agenda, a loop that will not end well for Black Americans and for the nation overall.
Equally important is that politicians are using CRT to further bury the truth of this country’s past through misinformation, and are utilizing social media platforms (which have trouble with managing misinformation) to do so. Conservative media currently has the dominant voice on these platforms and controls the discussion around CRT. These findings present an outlook that are ultimately geared toward impacting education, policies and democracy overall, unless the mainstream media start to change their narrative around these critical issues. Net-net: the pushback on CRT has ramifications beyond the obvious. It’s all in the data.
SOVAW is a nonprofit that addresses inadequate laws and policies that lack protections for women in particular women of color. We focus on online violence against women, laws, and policy changes needed at the local, state, and federal levels. We also focus on technology and social media company’s accountability. SOVAW serves as a resource of services and options for women and women of color, based on their level of targeted harassment or violence. We report on the diverse issues and impacts for those who are willing to share their stories. This includes digital voter suppression. We are a nonpartisan organization.
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