How online communities could foster radicalization
- Online communities help people find other people with whom they have an interest or a worldview.
- A new study finds that the shared moral outrage that can arise within such communities often leads to radicalization.
- The more a person has the impression that everyone in a community agrees, the more they invest in the group. This investment can encourage them to feel free to express extreme opinions.
Disagreement in a democracy is not new. It may even be the foundation of democracy, as people with different points of view come together to find common ground on which to move forward together.
Lately, however, for Americans such collaboration has seemed increasingly unlikely due to growing anger and the disturbing willingness by some to adopt violence as an acceptable tactic.
A new study led by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) explores the role of online communities in the rise of such radical positions.
The study finds that the higher the level of moral agreement in an online community, the more likely its members will feel free to engage in hate speech.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Mohammad Atari of USC, said Medical News Today:
“There is good data to suggest that polarization has increased, which means, in part, that Americans increasingly view ‘other’ party members as morally corrupt.”
âI certainly see that part of the problem is rooted in social media platforms. People tend to fit into environments and sources of information and bots with ideological views, etc. Â», He continued. “Therefore, they don’t see the big picture – that there are good people, with different opinions, who are not bad.”
“People who find themselves in a ‘bubble’, so to speak – in which their ideas, beliefs and values ââare strongly reinforced – might continue to form a visceral bond with their group,” says Dr Atari, addressing at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).
“In these situations, people can engage in drastic acts in defense of their group, ranging from a tweet filled with outrage to an attack on a federal building.”
Of course, not all chat platforms or online groups lead to such radicalization. As Dr Atari pointed out MNT, “If a group of Twitter users are interested in green tea or classic cars, it’s hard to imagine anything extraordinarily pernicious coming out of this bubble.”
The new study appears in Social psychology and personality sciences.
The researchers began their exploration with the Gab chat platform because, write the study’s authors, “it claims to celebrate free speech and has attracted a large number of users who identify with the ideologies of it. ‘far right”.
Based on a manual analysis of 7,692 messages from 800 randomly selected Gab users, the researchers developed a neural network model that analyzed 24,978,951 messages from 236,823 English Gab posters.
Researchers have found, said Dr Atari, that “when people come together in moralized bubbles around a subject – for example, immigration – they become more likely to develop a deep sense of moral duty to act. according to their moral convictions “.
The researchers then looked at another network: the “misogynistic subreddit” called Incels, which was founded as a place to eat for “unintentional bachelors.” After removing users with fewer than five posts, the researchers analyzed the posts of 11,454 frequent posters.
In the Incels subreddit, 10,240 (89.8%) of users posted at least one hate speech against women.
Finally, the researchers conducted three follow-up trials. These confirmed that the more a poster believes itself to belong to a morally like-minded community, the more likely it is to express radical intentions, including, for some, a willingness to fight or die for the group.
Dr Atari noted: âSocial media platforms don’t particularly care about this; their algorithms are designed to maximize profit, not welfare.
With more and more people spending more time online – and in their own bubbles – the American conversation may well become even more fractured and hostile.
“It would be a Herculean task to reverse the trend in the short term, but it is not impossible,” said Dr Atari. MNT. âThere is a ton of work that can be done on the policy side to create better social media platforms that protect privacy, freedom, mental health and access to reliable information, rather than exposing users to disinformation, hatred and ‘others’. ‘”
Tell the study authors:
“Our results underscore the importance of moral diversity in online social networks to avoid emotional polarization and the creation of moral echo chambers that could contribute to radicalization through the formation of cult-like identities to which individuals s. ‘tie vehemently. “
The authors caution that their searches relate only to Western English-speaking users. Its conclusions do not necessarily apply to other cultures and places.
Speaking to the SPSP, Dr Atari concludes:
âWhat I am most convinced of is that putting you in an extremely homogeneous environment where no one disagrees with your values ââor [they cheer] ” Yeah ! Is not an ideal environment. And it might even radicalize you.