On the hate site Stormfront, one of the largest online discussion forums dedicated to “white pride,” sharing DNA results with fellow members has become a rite of passage for some members.
But what happens when users’ results show that they fail to meet their own genetic criteria for whiteness? Are they still willing to post them? And if so, how do other users respond?
Such questions have long intrigued the sociologists Aaron Panofsky, who studies the social implications of genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Joan Donovan, whose research at Harvard University focuses on how information is manipulated on the internet.
“We had a puzzle,” Dr. Panofsky said in an interview this week. “If Stormfront says, ‘You’ve got to be all white or we’ll kick you out,’ how do they deal with these anomalies?”
Their findings, outlined this month in a study in the journal Social Studies of Science, show that yes, even members who fail to meet their own genetic standards will sometimes share the results.
In response, their fellow white nationalists tend to console them by offering potential reasons the results can’t be trusted....