Arcs of the moral universe

Kevin Lewis

September 08, 2019

Hidden resilience and adaptive dynamics of the global online hate ecology
Neil Johnson et al.
Nature, forthcoming

Online hate and extremist narratives have been linked to abhorrent real-world events, including a current surge in hate crimes and an alarming increase in youth suicides that result from social media vitriol; inciting mass shootings such as the 2019 attack in Christchurch, stabbings and bombings; recruitment of extremists, including entrapment and sex-trafficking of girls as fighter brides; threats against public figures, including the 2019 verbal attack against an anti-Brexit politician, and hybrid (racist-anti-women-anti-immigrant) hate threats against a US member of the British royal family; and renewed anti-western hate in the 2019 post-ISIS landscape associated with support for Osama Bin Laden's son and Al Qaeda. Social media platforms seem to be losing the battle against online hate and urgently need new insights. Here we show that the key to understanding the resilience of online hate lies in its global network-of-network dynamics. Interconnected hate clusters form global 'hate highways' that - assisted by collective online adaptations - cross social media platforms, sometimes using 'back doors' even after being banned, as well as jumping between countries, continents and languages. Our mathematical model predicts that policing within a single platform (such as Facebook) can make matters worse, and will eventually generate global 'dark pools' in which online hate will flourish. We observe the current hate network rapidly rewiring and self-repairing at the micro level when attacked, in a way that mimics the formation of covalent bonds in chemistry. This understanding enables us to propose a policy matrix that can help to defeat online hate, classified by the preferred (or legally allowed) granularity of the intervention and top-down versus bottom-up nature. We provide quantitative assessments for the effects of each intervention. This policy matrix also offers a tool for tackling a broader class of illicit online behaviours such as financial fraud.

Infectious Disease Prevalence, Not Race Exposure, Predicts Both Implicit and Explicit Racial Prejudice Across the United States
Brian O'Shea et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

What factors increase racial prejudice? Across the United States, increased exposure to Black Americans has been hypothesized to increase White Americans' prejudicial attitudes toward Black Americans. Here we test an alternative explanation: People living in regions with higher infectious disease rates have a greater tendency to avoid out-groups because such avoidance reduces their perceived likelihood of contracting illnesses. Consistent with this parasite-stress hypothesis, we show that both White and Black individuals (N > 77,000) living in U.S. states in which disease rates are higher display increased implicit (automatic) and explicit (conscious) racial prejudice. These results survived the inclusion of several individual- and state-level controls previously used to explain variability in prejudice. Furthermore, showing disease-related primes to White individuals with strong germ aversion increased their explicit, but not implicit, anti-Black/pro-White prejudice. Domestic out-groups, not just foreigners, may therefore experience increased overt forms of prejudice when disease rates are high.

Whitewashing Slavery: Legacy of Slavery and White Social Outcomes
Robert Reece
Social Problems, forthcoming

Legacy of slavery research has branched out into an important new niche in social science research by making empirical connections between the trans-Atlantic slave trade and contemporary social outcomes. However, the vast majority of this research examines black-white inequality or black disadvantage without devoting corresponding attention to the other side of inequality: white advantage. This study expands the legacy of slavery conversation by exploring whether white populations accrue long-term benefits from slave labor. Specifically, I deploy historical understandings of racial boundary formation and theories of durable inequality to argue that white populations in places that relied more heavily on slave labor should experience better social and economic outcomes than white population in places that relied less on slave labor. I test this argument using OLS regression and county-level data from the 1860 United States Census, the 2010-2014 American Community Survey (ACS), and the 2014 United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS). The results support my hypothesis. Historical reliance on slave labor predicts better white outcomes on five of six metrics. I discuss the implications of these findings for race, slavery, whiteness studies, and reparations.

Testing Life Course Models Whereby Juvenile and Adult Adversity Combine to Influence Speed of Biological Aging
Ronald Simons et al.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, forthcoming

The present study extends prior research on the links between social adversity and aging by employing more comprehensive measures of adversity and a new gene expression index of aging. Hierarchical regression and 20 years of data from a sample of 381 black Americans were used to test models regarding the impact of social adversity on speed of aging. Consistent with the early life sensitivity model, early adversity continued to predict accelerated aging after controlling for adult adversity. Contrary to the pathway model, adult adversity was not related to aging following controls for early adversity. The cumulative stress model received partial support as high adversity during adulthood amplified the effect of early adversity on aging. Finally, consonant with the social change model, low adversity during adulthood buffered the effect of early adversity on aging. These findings held after controlling for health behaviors such as smoking, diet, and exercise.

Diversity Taxes
Saumya Deojain & David Lindequist
Washington University in St. Louis Working Paper, July 2019

We propose a model in which cultural diversity generates social conflict through negative consumption externalities. These externalities can be mitigated by a government which transforms private consumption into public good consumption. We show that in such a framework, 'diversity taxes' arise as a policy tool to regulate the externalities from the private consumption of diverse groups. We link the size of such taxes to characteristics of the underlying distribution of cultural groups as well as to the type of government (utilitarian, majority, minority). Testing the predictions from our theoretical analysis on U.S. city and county data from 1990, we find strong evidence for the existence of sizeable 'diversity taxes' in U.S. localities. We further document statistically significant relationships between characteristics of the group size distribution and local taxes per capita which are in line with our hypothesized link between cultural diversity, negative externalities, and taxation. 


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