On March 16, 2020, Trump first tweeted the phrase “Chinese virus.”
That single tweet, researchers later found, fueled exactly the kind of backlash the World Health Organisation had feared: It was followed by an avalanche of tweets using the hashtag #chinesevirus, among other anti-Asian phrases.
“The week before Trump’s tweet the dominant term [on Twitter] was #covid-19,” Yulin Hswen, an epidemiology professor at the University of California San Francisco and a co-author of the study told the Washington Post. “The week after his tweet, it was #chinesevirus.”
Hswen is among a group of researchers who analyzed hundreds of thousands of #covid-19 and #chinesevirus hashtags drafted the week before and after Trump first referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” on the social media platform.
Not only did more people use the #chinesevirus hashtag days after Trump’s tweet, but those who did were more likely to include other anti-Asian hashtags in their tweets, according to the peer-reviewed study published by the American Journal of Public Health.