hHumans prefer their weather in something of a temperate zone – a temperature window that is neither too hot nor too cold which affects not only our physical comfort, but our mood as well. During heat waves or deep freezes, anger explodes, patience is weakened, and behavior can be affected. Currently, New study in The Lancet Planetary Health. Lancet Health Planet, found that this applies not only in our in-person interactions, but online as well. As temperatures rise or fall above or below their comfort zone from 54°F to 70°F (12°C to 21°C), hate speech online in the US — at least on Twitter — increases accordingly.
The research team, led by Leonie Wiens, working group leader at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), took a deep dive into online discourse to reach their conclusions, starting with the dump of more than 4 billion geo-located tweets posted in the United States. Over a six-year time frame from May 2014 to May 2020. They programmed an artificial intelligence algorithm to screen tweets for hate speech, which they defined, according to UN standards, as any communication that “attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or group.” on the basis of…their religion, race, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender, or any other identity factor.”
This is a broad definition and the algorithm can sometimes get confused. While researchers can train the software to recognize hateful words and terms, some have multiple meanings. Notably, the program had to learn the meaning of the N-word. The authors wrote that one form of the word ending in “-a,” for example, “was repurposed as a form of reinforcement in some societies.” In this case, they taught the program to look for surrounding words that were “aggressive or degrading.”
Overall, just over 75 million tweets – or 2% of the four billion total in the six-year window – analyzed by the algorithm were classified as hate speech. But exactly when and where the tweets originated can vary widely. The study geolocated the source of hate speech tweets in 773 different US cities, and compared this information with the temperature in those places on the date the tweet was posted.
Overall, the study did not find that any city or region produces more hate tweets than any other city or region; The critical variable they found was all about the thermometer. The least hateful tweets occurred in a narrow six-degree temperature range of 59°F to 65°F (15°C to 18°C), within the designated wider comfort zone. Outside that cool spot of 54°F to 70°F, things can vary widely. On very cold days, for example—more common in the boreal than elsewhere in the country—when temperatures ranged from 21°F to 27°F (-6°C to -3°C), tweets urging more On hate at 12.5%. On sweltering days—particularly in the southwest desert—when temperatures reached their maximum between 108°F and 113°F (42°C to 45°C) tweets on Twitter rose by 22%.
“Even in high-income areas where people can afford air conditioning and other heat mitigation options, we see an increase in hate speech on very hot days,” said Anders Leverman, Head of Complexity Sciences at PIK and one of the study’s authors. In a statement accompanying its release. “There are potential limits for adaptation to extreme temperatures that are lower than those set only by our physiological limits.”
This does not mean that we do not adapt at all. The study divided the 773 cities from which tweets originated into five different climatic zones: cold, dry hot, humid mixed, humid hot, and marine (or coastal). Broadly speaking, they found that increases in hate tweets varied, for example, people in the cold zone – which covers most of the northern part of the 48 contiguous states – showed less stumbling over bad behavior online during a cold snap compared to people in the cold region. Hot, humid area, which would not be accustomed to sudden dips in the thermometer.
“This may indicate that the increase in hate tweets depends on the temperatures we are used to,” the authors wrote.
The limitations in the study did not allow the researchers to use geographic information to elicit any differences in weather-related hate tweets based on socioeconomic status, religion, ethnicity, political party membership, or more. Groupings based on income, religion, and partisanship [affiliation] Not ideal because cities are not perfectly homogeneous at all.” However, their geographically determined data did not control for these factors.
While it may be difficult to elicit the exact demographic that was tweeting the hate, it wasn’t difficult to determine who the targets were. The study cites current research showing that 25% of blacks and 10% of Hispanics have experienced race-based harassment online. These communities are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, which has been exacerbated by climate change. The study found that members of the LGBTQ community are also four times more likely to report online harassment than the others. The authors warn that it is these same groups that are most likely to suffer from all hate tweets, including those related to heat – and this poses a risk to their well-being.
“Being a target of online hate speech is a serious threat to people’s mental health,” said Annika Stechemesser, a doctoral researcher at PIK and co-author of the study, in a statement. “The psychological literature tells us that online hate can exacerbate mental health conditions especially for young people and marginalized groups.”
The authors warn that this threat will only increase, as human-caused climate change worsens and extreme temperatures become more common. They wrote: “Assuming little adaptation and similar communication patterns, this means that hate expressed online could increase with future global warming.” Hate is a uniquely human trait, and climate change is one of our most unfortunate crafts. Together, they make a pretty bad pair.
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