CMU and Pitt launch center dedicated to combating extremist hate

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

Pitt and Carnegie Mellon are teaming up to create a new center to study extremist hate, according to a Wednesday morning announcement. 

The new center, called the Collaboratory Against Hate — Research and Action Center, will develop new ways to stop hate’s “creation, growth and destructive consequences.” Scholars from Pitt and CMU will work to develop effective interventions to stop the growth of extremist hate as well as develop ways to minimize its impact.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said Pitt is excited to collaborate with CMU in the new center, which will bring together the collective expertise from multiple disciplines, including computer science, data science, social sciences, psychology, psychiatry and the law.

“We’ve launched Collaboratory Against Hate with a clear purpose: to mobilize our experts and assets together so that we can better understand and address extreme hate — in its many iterations and implications — across the world,” Gallagher said. 

Scholars from the two universities will seek to better understand and combat hatred based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and other prejudices.

CMU President Farnam Jahanian said the spread of extremist hate is undeniably insidious and increasingly dangerous and that the two Universities are in a position to help mitigate the spread of hate. 

“We have witnessed its violent consequences in our own community, including the horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue building, and have also seen this epidemic pose an existential threat to our nation’s democracy,” said Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian. “CMU and Pitt have a unique opportunity to work against this socially destructive force and enhance our multipronged efforts against all forms of hatred.”

Kathleen Blee, a professor of sociology and dean of Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and Lorrie Cranor, director and Bosch distinguished professor in security and privacy technologies in CMU’s CyLab, will lead the new center.

Blee has studied white supremacism for more than 30 years and said the internet has allowed hate groups to grow and go unmonitored. 

“They’ve made the distribution, mobilization and spread of online hate much harder to monitor and prosecute. It’s also more difficult to decipher the extent to which virtual communities of hate are simply reinforcing each other or being pushed by organized extremist organizations,” Blee said. “That’s created challenges for researchers and law enforcement who are trying to understand how these groups work and how to intervene.”