CMU and Pitt launch collaborative center dedicated to combating extremist hate

PITTSBURGH — Two local universities are teaming up to launch a new center to study and combat extremist hate.

Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh will partner through the Collaboratory Against Hate — Research and Action Center to develop effective tools that inhibit hate’s creation, growth and destructive consequences.

“The spread of extremist hate is undeniably insidious and increasingly dangerous. 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,” Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian said in a news release. “CMU and Pitt have a unique opportunity to work against this socially destructive force and enhance our multipronged efforts against all forms of hatred.”

The center will bring together several disciplines, including computer science, data science, social sciences, psychology, psychiatry and the law, to better understand and combat hatred based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and other prejudices. Researchers will study how extremism originates and circulates, how it shapes extremist views and fosters polarization in society as well as how it provokes harmful and illegal acts, with a focus on its effects on minorities and marginalized groups in society.

“The University of Pittsburgh is excited to grow our close collaboration with CMU,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “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.”

The collaboration is being led by two top experts in extremist hate groups and cybersecurity: Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean of Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Kathleen Blee, and Lorrie Cranor, director and Bosch Distinguished Professor in Security and Privacy Technologies in CMU’s CyLab.

The universities are in the process of building up the center’s research team and welcome engagement from experts at each institution as well as from community groups.