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Anonymity increases number of hateful comments online: Study

ANI | Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 23:58

Washington: Anonymity makes a difference online, with a number of anonymous comments containing vulgar, racist, profane or hateful language, a new study has found.

In a study titled, `Virtuous or Vitriolic: The Effect of Anonymity on Civility in Online Newspaper Reader Comment Boards,` University of Houston assistant professor Arthur D. Santana at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication found a significant correlation between anonymity and civility.
Comparing the tone of thousands of online comments posted by anonymous and non-anonymous users following online newspaper stories, Santana found that 53.3 percent of anonymous comments included language that was vulgar, racist, profane or hateful as compared to only 28.7 percent of non-anonymous comments were found to be uncivil.

The so-called `online disinhibition effect`, which predicts that when people`s identity is hidden, found their actions or words have no consequences, thus their inhibitions drop.

Santana observed that non-anonymous commenters were nearly three times as likely to post civil comments.
He found that 44 percent of non-anonymous commenters posted civil comments following news articles compared to 15 percent of anonymous commenters.

His study also was designed to determine whether an online article`s topic affected whether the comments` tones would be civil or uncivil.

Comparing comments following a racialized topic and a non-racialized topic, Santana observed that comments that followed the racialized topic were significantly more likely to be uncivil.

First Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 23:58

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