A little more than a year ago, Jedidiah Carlson was searching online for a 2008 paper in Natureanalyzing hundreds of thousands of point mutations in various human population groups around the world. Heady stuff, but fascinating to the bioinformatics graduate student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. As he scanned the list of search results, an unusual one stood out: a link to a forum post on the website Stormfront, one of the internet’s oldest and most notorious hangouts for white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.
“Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to see what they had to say about this [paper],” Carlson says.
Following the link, he found forum users involved in a rather in-depth discussion of the paper’s genetics and how these mutations supposedly shaped the emergence of different human races. There were a few problems, though. Somehow, many in the forum thought they were debating an entirely different 2008 Nature paper, leading to what Carlson calls “a convoluted mess.”
And then, of course, the conversation was peppered with abhorrent insinuations...