Jonathan F. Kominsky and Elizabeth Bonawitz examine the public’s judgments of Covid-19 safety measures during one of the pandemic’s peaks.…
The role of algorithms in promoting disinformation has received a great deal of attention in recent years, due in large part to the centrality of Facebook in the 2016 US presidential election and the UK Brexit campaign. However, David Nemer argues that in countries such as Brazil, where peer-to-peer messaging apps like WhatsApp are popular, more attention needs to be paid to the "human infrastructure" of coordinated disinformation campaigns.
Drawing on feminist scholarship and social media studies, Nelanthi Hewa discusses the fraught role authenticity plays in cases of sexual assault, where survivors are expected to perform transparency to massive public audiences in order to be believed.
It is often assumed that while extremist content online may result in offline violent behavior, the actual instances of such events are rare. However, in the latest essay from our “Extremism Online” series, Daniel Karell argues that this assumption is wrong, and reflects a misunderstanding of the mechanisms by which extremist content online shapes offline behavior. Indeed, new evidence suggests that online extremism, particularly from the right wing in the United States and Western Europe, results in offline, physical violence far more often than we think.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as pundits, politicians, and citizens all pored over data dashboards detailing infection rates and deaths, Heidi Tworek asked: What is the historical rationale for how statistics came to become the authentic mode to represent disease? Bringing historical insight to a contemporary problem of science communication, Tworek explores the power and limit of statistics to drive public health interventions.
Mackenzie Israel-Trummel’s SSRC Covid-19 rapid-response research grant focused on advocacy on behalf of the incarcerated, who are among those groups most at risk during the pandemic. Here Israel-Trummel reports on the sources of empathy and advocacy for prison inmates through experiments in perspective-taking. She finds that, when people are prompted to imagine themselves or a loved one as a prisoner, empathy and (potentially) political action are more likely to follow.
In the opening essay for the “Beyond Disinformation” series, Wendy HK Chun asks whether authenticity may provide a more useful lens for investigating contemporary social problems that are often treated uniformly as problems of mis- and disinformation.
Resuming Field Research in Pandemic Times, Redux: A View from Inside a “Research Reactivation” Committeeby Douglas Rogers
In a follow up to his earlier coauthored piece on resuming research during the Covid-19 pandemic, Douglas Rogers describes how Yale University created a process to review and approve research projects through “a researcher-facing, education-focused, peer-reviewed process that is informed by public health guidance.” Avoiding blanket policies restricting or banning research, Rogers explains the steps taken by Yale, and the subcommittee he chaired in particular, to ensure a safe resumption of field research, which can hopefully guide other institutions.
The failure to recognize dangerous speech—rhetoric that can inspire group violence—from Trump and other strongmen around the world is just one example of social media companies’ poor use of their vast private power. In this essay, Susan Benesch argues that while international human rights law was made for governments and not private companies, it has the potential, if adequately interpreted, to serve as a guide for social media companies to regulate hateful speech and for outsiders to hold these companies accountable.
Jennifer Lee deploys her research on anti-Asian hate during the pandemic to shed light on the tragic March 2021 mass shooting in Atlanta, and as an entry point into the historical roots of violence toward Asian-Americans. Lee reports on increased violent incidences and the strong sense of threat experienced by Asian Americans. To understand this, she argues that we need to look beyond the rhetoric of the Trump administration that cast blame on Asians for Covid-19 and consider longer-term structural dimensions of racism and dehumanization of non-white Americans.
Disaster Management in Japan during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Were the Lessons Learned from Large-scale Natural Disasters Applied?by Mampei Hayashi
Sitting on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Japan is one of the “ring of fire” countries subject to frequent earthquakes and other natural disasters. In this essay, Mampei Hayashi provides a critical examination of the Japanese government’s disaster management policies to address the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that the government has wavered, switching between policies to suppress the pandemic and policies to stimulate the economy. Hayashi advises use of the Disaster Management Cycle to plan and implement a more coherent set of policies to not only deal with the immediate emergency, but also to develop plans for recovery and mitigation of similar future disasters.