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Scientific Journal Nature on On-line hate By Brian Simpson

     Long ago the scientific journal Nature published the ground-breaking paper by Watson and Crick outlining the nature of DNA:
  https://www.nature.com/articles/171737a0

     Fast forward to modern times, and we find strategies for combating online hate:
  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02447-1
  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1494-7

“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.”

     No doubt this is research well deserving of publication, but it seems to be more a sociology piece, even with its mathematical model, than natural science, like the Watson-Crick piece. And speaking of James Watson, last year he was stripped of his titles for saying that there is a connection between race and intelligence:

“A New York laboratory has cut its ties with James Watson, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA, over “reprehensible” comments in which he said race and intelligence are connected. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said it was revoking all titles and honors conferred on Watson, 90, who led the lab for many years. The lab “unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr James D Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics”, its president, Bruce Stillman, and chair of the board of trustees, Marilyn Simons, said in a statement. “Dr Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students. The laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.” With Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, the scientist was one of the researchers who discovered the double helix structure of DNA in 1953. In 2007, the lab removed him as chancellor after he told the Sunday Times he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really”. He also said that while he wished the races were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” Watson apologized at the time but in a recent documentary he said his views have not changed. “Not at all,” he said in the PBS documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson, the New York Times reported. “I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge that says that your nurture is much more important than nature. But I haven’t seen any knowledge. And there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic.” The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said it was revoking Watson’s honorary titles, which include chancellor emeritus, Oliver R Grace professor emeritus, and honorary trustee. The latest comments “effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr Watson made in 2007”, the lab said, adding it appreciated his legacy of scientific discoveries and leadership of the institution but could no longer be associated with him. “The statements he made in the documentary are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values, and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement,” Simons and Stillman said. The Times reported that Watson’s family said he was unable to respond, having been in medical care since a car accident in October. The PBS interview was filmed last summer.”

     As far as I can see Watson has not recanted, and has stood his ground. Let them keep their honours, just as he keeps his greater honour.

 

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Tuesday, 26 May 2020
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