Extreme temperatures linked to rise in hate tweets, studies show

A recent study found a link between outdoor temperatures and the spread of hate speech on social media, which in turn can impact mental health.

The results were originally published in the medical and health news agency Medical Xpress before the study was published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Planetary Health this month, and it turns out that people post more hateful tweets when the temperature rises above or falls below a “comfortable” range.

Researchers used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify approximately 75 million hate tweets in English from a dataset of more than 4 billion tweets posted in the United States between 2014 and 2020. The authors then analyzed how the number of hate tweets changed as local temperatures changed.

Generic image of the Twitter logo on the phone
Stock image of the Twitter logo on a phone screen. A recent study found a link between outdoor temperatures and the spread of hate speech on social media, which in turn can impact mental health.
greenwish_/Pexels

To guide the study, the researchers relied on the official UN definition of hate speech: instances of discriminatory language directed toward an individual or group on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, ancestry, gender, or other identity factors.

Overall, the study found that hateful tweets increased with higher and lower temperatures outside of a certain comfort zone, but especially in warmer weather.

“We see that outside the comfort window of 12-21 degrees C (54-70 degrees F), online hate increases by up to 12% in colder temperatures and up to 22% in higher temperatures in the US,” says Annika Stechemesser , a Potsdam Institute scientist and author of the study, told Medical Xpress.

Additionally, temperatures above 30 degrees Fahrenheit are consistently associated with sharp increases in online hate across all climate zones and socioeconomic disparities such as income, religious beliefs, and political preferences. The researchers found that the least amount of hateful tweets occurred when the temperature was between 59 and 65 degrees F.

“People tend to be more aggressive online when it’s either too cold or too hot outside,” Stechemesser said. And that was a trend that defied air conditioning.

“Even in high-income areas where people can afford air conditioning[ing] and other heat mitigation options, we see an increase in hate speech on extremely hot days. In other words, there’s a limit to what people can endure,” co-author Anders Levermann told Medical Xpress. “Therefore there are likely limits to adaptation to temperature extremes, and these are lower than those set by our purely physiological limits.”

Using this newly discovered link, the authors turned their attention to concerns about how this might contribute to the impact of climate change on mental health, particularly among young people and marginalized groups.

Leonie Wenz, a working group leader at the Potsdam Institute who led the study, explained that the results highlight online hate speech as another way in which climate change could affect people’s “societal cohesion” and mental health.

“So that means that a very quick and drastic reduction in emissions will not only benefit the outside world,” she said. “Protecting our climate from excessive global warming is also critical to our mental health.”

Produced in collaboration with AccuWeather.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

https://www.newsweek.com/extreme-temperatures-linked-rise-hate-tweets-study-shows-1744122 Extreme temperatures linked to rise in hate tweets, studies show

Rick Schindler

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