Alvarez Benjumea, Amalia (2019). The Spreading of Hostility: Unraveling of Social Norms in Communication. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This work investigates the relationship between social norms, the shared rules that provide the standard of behavior, and online hate speech. We test our hypotheses empirically with three different online field experiments. Each chapter thus addresses a particular perspective of the relation between social norms and hate speech. In the first study, we compare informal verbal sanctions and censoring hateful content as interventions to tackle online hate. The interventions are based on two conceptualizations of social norms commonly found in the literature: i) the observed pattern of behavior or descriptive norm, and ii) informal social sanctions or the injunctive norm. The results suggest that adherence to the social norm in online conversations might be motivated by the observed pattern of behavior. In the second study, we test the assumption that observing an increasing number of norm violations in the local context will result in a decreased willingness to follow the norm, which will eventually result in the breakdown of the norm. In the last study, we explain the rise in online hate speech after terrorist attacks by the terrorist attacks creating a situation of normative uncertainty in which the previous consensus on the social norm against the public expression of hate erodes. Taken as a whole, the chapters represent an up-to-date general picture of the determinants of how social norms affect hate speech. All the conclusions come from original empirical work. Our data show that highlighting the anti-hate norm results in reduced levels of online hate speech. We also show that the presentation of the norm matters and the observed pattern of behavior is often a powerful normative cue. The descriptive norm seems of key importance for the regulation and they might help to design effective social norm interventions against online hate speech. Different individual characteristics, such as gender, might also affect the way people respond to normative cues. Finally, not only the behavior of others produce normative changes, but events that affect the normative certainty can also impact the anti-hate norm. Particularly events that increase normative uncertainty can amplify influence processes because people resolve the uncertainty by looking at existing patterns of behavior in the context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-112779
Date: 2019
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Sociology and Social Psychology > Department of Scociology
Subjects: Social sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Hate speechEnglish
Online hateEnglish
Social normsEnglish
experimental social sciencesEnglish
Date of oral exam: 22 August 2019
NameAcademic Title
Kroneberg, ClemensProf. Dr.
Winter, FabianDr.
Refereed: Yes


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