Temperature impacts on hate speech online: evidence from four billion tweets (Papers Track)

Annika Stechemesser (Potsdam Insitute for Climate Impact Research); Anders Levermann (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research); Leonie Wenz (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)

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Human aggression is no longer limited to the physical space but exists in the form of hate speech on social media. Here, we examine the effect of temperature on the occurrence of hate speech on Twitter and interpret the results in the context of climate change, human behavior and mental health. Employing supervised machine learning models, we identify hate speech in a data set of four billion geolocated tweets from over 750 US cities (2014 – 2020). We statistically evaluate the changes in daily hate tweets against changes in local temperature, isolating the temperature influence from confounding factors using binned panel-regression models. We find a low prevalence of hate tweets in moderate temperatures and observe sharp increases of up to 12% for colder and up to 22% for hotter temperatures, indicating that not only hot but also cold temperatures increase aggressive tendencies. Further, we observe that for extreme temperatures hate speech also increases as a percentage of total tweeting activity, crowding out non-hate speech. The quasi-quadratic shape of the temperature-hate tweet curve is robust across varying climate zones, income groups, religious and political beliefs. The prevalence of the results across climatic and socioeconomic splits points to limits in adaptation. Our results illuminate hate speech online as an impact channel through which temperature alters societal aggression.

Recorded Talk (direct link)