Extremism Online, Russia's Military, Preventing Police Killings: RAND Weekly Recap

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May 20, 2022

This week, we discuss the spread of extremism and hate online; Russia's lack of concern for the lives and well-being of its military personnel; how much private health plans pay hospitals compared with Medicare; the evidence of Truth Decay in Europe; what we know about police violence and how to stop it; and how the American business community views U.S. economic policy on China.

Man thinking at his laptop, photo by Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

Photo by Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

Tracking Extremism Online

Last Saturday, a gunman carried out a racist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and injuring three others. Almost all of the victims were Black.

The shooting has again reignited the debate about gun policy in America. And because the suspect appears to have been radicalized online, the attack has also sparked discussion about the internet's role in stoking extremism and hate.

RAND researchers have been studying this problem. They recently developed a scorecard that rates websites and social media platforms based on how receptive they are to extremist content.

“There's this idea that there's a dark part of the internet, and if you just stay away from websites with a Nazi flag at the top, you can avoid this material,” said RAND's Alexandra Evans. “What we found is that this dark internet, this racist internet, doesn't exist.”

In other words, although sites vary in how much hateful and violent content they host, extremist content can be found just about anywhere online.

“Most of those who ascribe to these types of violent extremism do not clearly associate themselves with an organized group,” RAND's Heather Williams told NPR this week. “This, combined with the fact they can self-radicalize from the internet, complicates prevention.”

RAND's extremist-content scorecard may help. Individuals can reference it to better understand how to avoid extremist content online. Social media companies could also use the scorecard as a checklist to help strengthen their defenses against extremist content. And advertisers could use it to decide which sites they may or may not want to do business with.

Footage released by Russia Ministry of Defense shows Russian soldiers from airborne units advancing in an undisclosed location in Ukraine, March 10, 2022, photo by Russian MOD/Eyepress Pictures/Reuters

Footage released by Russia's Ministry of Defense shows Russian soldiers from airborne units advancing in an undisclosed location in Ukraine, March 10, 2022

Photo by Russian MOD/Eyepress Pictures/Reuters

The Russian Military Has Failed Its Sons

Russia has stumbled strategically, operationally, and tactically in Ukraine. According to RAND's Dara Massicot, these issues are linked by an underlying theme: Moscow's lack of concern for its military personnel. “It may spend billions of dollars on new equipment,” she says, “but it does not properly treat soldiers' injuries, and it generally does not appear to care tremendously whether troops are traumatized.” This not only lowers morale, but also degrades combat effectiveness. “The results are plain to see,” says Massicot.

A hospital entrance, photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

What Private Health Plans Pay Hospitals Compared With Medicare

In 2020, employers and private insurers paid hospital prices averaging 224 percent of what Medicare would have paid—for the same services at the same facilities. That's according to a new RAND study. There was wide variation in pricing among states. Hawaii, Arkansas, and Washington, for example, had relative prices under 175 percent of Medicare. But in Florida, West Virginia, and South Carolina, relative prices were at or above 310 percent of Medicare. This data may be helpful to policymakers looking for strategies to curb health care spending.

Magnifying glass over map of Europe, photo by amazing studio/Adobe Stock

Photo by amazing studio/Adobe Stock

Is There Truth Decay in Europe?

Truth Decay, the diminishing role of facts in public life, has taken hold in the United States over the last two decades. A new RAND Europe report considers whether European countries are also facing this troubling phenomenon. The authors find that, although Truth Decay is occurring on the continent, it is less prevalent than in the United States—at least for now. Since Truth Decay appears to be at a less-advanced stage in Europe, there is still time to stop its spread.

A man stands in front of a police car during the protest against the deaths of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police and George Floyd by Minneapolis police, in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 1, 2020, photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

A man stands in front of a police car during the protest against the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Louisville, Kentucky, June 1, 2020

Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Preventing Police Killings: A Roadmap for Research

Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States, with people of color facing an even higher risk. Over the course of a lifetime, about one in every 1,000 Black men can expect to be killed by police. A new RAND report summarizes the evidence about killings committed by police officers and what could be done to reduce police violence. The authors focus on key areas that include racial inequities, police culture, training, and consequences for officers.

People stand in line in front of Huawei's new flagship store, as it officially opens in Shanghai, China, June 24, 2020, photo by Aly Song/Reuters

People stand in line in front of Huawei's new flagship store, as it officially opens in Shanghai, China, June 24, 2020

Photo by Aly Song/Reuters

How Does America's Business Community View U.S. Policy on China?

The Trump administration pursued policies—now continuing under President Biden—aimed at confronting China over its transgressive and anticompetitive economic behaviors. How did the U.S. business community view these policies? A RAND analysis released this week finds that businesses in the manufacturing, technology, and financial sectors broadly agreed with Trump-era views on China, but they had concerns about certain approaches. Another key finding: The American public sees China as a security threat but not necessarily an economic one.

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