As the thermometer rises, hate speech also rises on Twitter

THURSDAY, Sept. 8, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Internet hotheads are often quite literally that, with hateful tweets increasing in number as temperatures soar, a new study reports.

Temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit are consistently linked to a surge in hate messages online, according to a review of more than 4 billion tweets in English.

The researchers identified a “wellness window” between 54 and 70 degrees where hateful tweets occurred less often, including a 59 to 65 degree window that represented the least hateful social message.

“Even in high-income areas where people can afford air conditioning and other heat-mitigating options, we are seeing an increase in hate speech on extremely hot days. In other words: there is a limit to what people can take,” study co-author Anders Levermann said in a press release from the Potsdam Institute for Impact Research. in Germany, where he heads the division of complexity sciences.

For the study, researchers used a computer program to identify approximately 75 million hateful tweets out of more than 4 billion tweets posted on Twitter in the United States between 2014 and 2020. Hate speech was defined as discriminatory language based on religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, ancestry, gender or other identity factor.

The researchers then linked the tweets to weather conditions, to see how the number of hateful tweets changed as local temperatures rose or fell.

Outside of this wellness window, online hate messages increased by up to 22% for warmer temperatures and up to 12% for colder temperatures in the United States, investigators found.

Hate speech online can seriously threaten someone’s mental health, the researchers noted.

“Our findings highlight online hate speech as a new impact channel through which climate change can affect overall societal cohesion and people’s mental health,” said lead researcher Leonie Wenz, group leader of work at the Potsdam Institute. “So that means that cutting emissions very quickly and drastically will not only benefit the outside world. Protecting our climate from excessive global warming is also essential for our mental health.

The study results were published Sept. 7 in The Lancet Planetary Health.

More information

The Natural Resources Defense Council has more to say about the mental health consequences of heat.

SOURCE: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, press release, September 7, 2022

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