What Makes Social Media Content Harmful? A User-Centric Comparative Approach
The project is led by Principal Investigator Patricia Rossini (University of Liverpool, UK), with Yannis Theocharis from ZeMKI, Uni Bremen, Rebekah Tromble (George Washington University, USA) and Cristian Vaccari (Loughborough University, UK) as further collaborative partners. The focus of the investigation is how perceptions of intolerant behaviors are influenced by personal, cultural or political traits, as well as personal experiences with, and possible remedies to, online toxicity. The project will employ a comparative perspective and investigate the potential effects of exposure to intolerant speech in four countries where online intolerance is pervasive — Brazil, Germany, UK and US. Research will use survey experiments and will focus on how different groups of users in different countries react when they are targeted by, or witness others being targeted by, intolerant political speech on social media and explore how platform content moderation policies can minimize the resulting harms of intolerant speech. The general goals of the project are to assess the extent to which different individuals interpret different types of political discourse as intolerant; to unveil how the type, tone, source, and target of discourse affect people's perceptions of harm; to examine the factors/moderators that explain why different individuals interpret different types of political discourse as intolerant, and the extent to which they take action against this type of content; and to to understand the implications of being exposed to, or targeted by, intolerant speech on political attitudes (e.g trust in other users and on social media platforms), behaviors (such as participation in online discussions), and selective avoidance (such as reporting, unfriending, blocking, or flagging a social media account).