Hate speech on social media increases when temperatures become extreme: study

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Increases in hate speech on Twitter were seen on days when it was too hot or too cold outside. Image: Souvik Banerjee / Unsplash

VSClimate change could increase the frequency of hateful posts on Twitter. Although the connection between the two may not necessarily seem obvious, researchers have found that in the United States, the increase in hate speech on the social network coincides with days when it is either too hot or too cold.

Published in The Lancet Planetary Health, the study was conducted by researchers from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who sifted through more than four billion Twitter posts from users in the United States between 2014 and 2020. They then analyzed them. using artificial intelligence and combining them with weather data.

Of the tweets analyzed, approximately 75 million contained hate speech, which is discriminatory speech directed at a targeted group or individual, most often racist or misogynistic in nature. The study authors found a marked increase in the frequency of hate speech being posted on social media, particularly when outdoor temperatures were above 30°C, including in high-income areas where people could be suitably equipped to mitigate the effects of such temperatures.

Given these findings, the researchers place particular emphasis on the interrelationship between climate change, human behavior and mental health. “We find that outside of the 12-21°C (54-70°F) wellness window, online hate increases by up to 12% for colder temperatures and up to 22% for warmer temperatures in the United States,” says PIK scientist Annika. Stechemesser, first author of the study. “This indicates limits to adaptation to extreme temperatures and highlights a still underestimated societal impact of climate change: conflict in the digital sphere with implications for both societal cohesion and mental health,” explain the researchers in a statement.

Also read: 50 years of preparation: Why it took so long for the US Congress to act on climate

“For centuries, researchers have pondered the question of how climatic conditions affect human behavior and the stability of society,” said Leonie Wenz, head of a working group at the Potsdam Institute who led the study. “Now, with climate change underway, it is more important than ever….. Protecting our climate from excessive global warming is also essential for our mental health.”

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