Normative change and culture of hate: a randomized experiment in online communities

In this project we ask whether descriptive and injunctive social norms influence the spread of hate speech, such as racist or sexist comments in online communities, and explore different ways to tackle it. We designed an online experiment in which participants were asked to participate in an experimentally controlled online forum. Our participants commented on controversial topics, such as migration, transgender rights, feminism or poverty. We constructed different experimental conditions to tackle hate speech using the comments by either censoring hate content or using previous comments as informal sanctions. Our data suggests that moderate censoring of hate speech has positive effects on the overall level of hate speech of subsequent comments in all topics except poverty.

bytopics2
Fig 1. Mean hate speech score by topic and treatment

This is one of the first controlled experimental setups in an ecologically valid environment and presents some of the first experimental evidence investigating the social determinants of hate speech in online communities.

Alvarez-Benjumea, A., & Winter, F. Normative change and culture of hate: a randomized experiment in online communities