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תחומי מחקר

The influence of  first comments on the tone of online discourse

 

Scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and the public are concerned about the rising levels of incivility online and are looking for ways to mitigate this trend. This research takes a step forward in explaining what causes and how to control online incivility. Specifically, we focus on online discussions in response to news articles posted on social media. We conducted two experimental studies to examine whether first uncivil comments cause an accommodation effect and whether this behavior is conscious or automatic. Results suggest that when readers encounter uncivil comments, an accommodation tendency leads to an increase in the probability of their writing an uncivil comment. Moreover, and more importantly, this tendency can be triggered by only one comment and is unconscious. These findings have important theoretical, practical, and ideological implications for publishers who wish to encourage online civility by moving civil comments to the top of comment sections.