The Effects of Online Content Moderation: Evidence from President Trump's Account Deletion

38 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2022 Last revised: 17 Apr 2023

See all articles by Karsten Müller

Karsten Müller

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Finance

Carlo Schwarz

Bocconi University - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 13, 2023

Abstract

We study the effects of online content moderation on user behavior in the context of a prominent case study: the deletion of President Donald Trump's Twitter account on January 8th, 2021. We provide four key findings. First, the toxicity of tweets sent by Trump followers relative to a representative sample of US Twitter users dropped by around 25% after the account deletion. Second, this effect is larger for Republicans and non-political users. Third, Trump's suspension reduced the total number of tweets, suggesting a drop in engagement. Fourth, we find effects on individuals who did not follow Trump directly but followed somebody that did, suggesting network spillovers. This evidence shows that removing a prominent, polarizing individual can reduce the toxicity of online discourse.

Keywords: social media, content moderation, hate speech

Suggested Citation

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, The Effects of Online Content Moderation: Evidence from President Trump's Account Deletion (April 13, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4296306 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4296306

Karsten Müller

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Finance ( email )

Mochtar Riady Building
15 Kent Ridge Drive
Singapore, 119245
Singapore

Carlo Schwarz (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136
Italy

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