“The words are like a virus,” said Joel Finkelstein, director of the Network Contagion Research Institute, a New Jersey-based nonprofit group that tracks hate speech online. “That leads to actions that are visible.”Finkelstein’s group, which reports its findings as alerts to government officials, documented a rise of conspiracy theories featuring both anti-Chinese sentiment and words such as “bioweapon” on 4chan’s notoriously racist “Politically Incorrect” message board and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter, according to a white paper published Wednesday evening.The white paper detailed “acute increases in both the vitriol and magnitude of ethnic hate” and said they fueled the spread of misinformation from remote corners of the Internet into the mainstream. The white paper also noted that an Instagram post last week called for shooting “every Asian we meet in Chinatown, that’s the only way we can destroy the epidemic of coronavirus in NYC!” (Instagram removed the post as a violation of its policies.)A second research group, featuring an international team of scholars from China, Cyprus, Italy, Germany and the United States, published separate research Wednesday evening showing that anti-Chinese slurs on 4chan grew sharply at key moments in the pandemic. It also found less pronounced rises in hostile


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