“And We Will Fight for Our Race!” A Measurement Study of Genetic Testing Conversations on Reddit and 4chan

  • Alexandros Mittos University College London
  • Savvas Zannettou Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik
  • Jeremy Blackburn Binghamton University
  • Emiliano De Cristofaro University College London

Abstract

Progress in genomics has enabled the emergence of a booming market for “direct-to-consumer” genetic testing. Nowadays, companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA provide affordable health, genealogy, and ancestry reports, and have already tested tens of millions of customers. At the same time, alt- and far-right groups have also taken an interest in genetic testing, using them to attack minorities and prove their genetic “purity.” In this paper, we present a measurement study shedding light on how genetic testing is being discussed on Web communities in Reddit and 4chan. We collect 1.3M comments posted over 27 months on the two platforms, using a set of 280 keywords related to genetic testing. We then use NLP and computer vision tools to identify trends, themes, and topics of discussion. Our analysis shows that genetic testing attracts a lot of attention on Reddit and 4chan, with discussions often including highly toxic language expressed through hateful, racist, and misogynistic comments. In particular, on 4chan's politically incorrect board (/pol/), content from genetic testing conversations involves several alt-right personalities and openly antisemitic rhetoric, often conveyed through memes. Finally, we find that discussions build around user groups, from technology enthusiasts to communities promoting fringe political views.

Published
2020-05-26
How to Cite
Mittos, A., Zannettou, S., Blackburn, J., & De Cristofaro, E. (2020). “And We Will Fight for Our Race!” A Measurement Study of Genetic Testing Conversations on Reddit and 4chan. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 14(1), 452-463. Retrieved from https://www.aaai.org/ojs/index.php/ICWSM/article/view/7314