Social Approval and Network Homophily as Motivators of Online Toxicity

18 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2023

See all articles by Julie Jiang

Julie Jiang

University of Southern California - University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering, Students

Luca Luceri

University of Southern California - Viterbi School of Engineering

Joseph Walther

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Emilio Ferrara

University of Southern California - Information Sciences Institute

Date Written: October 26, 2023

Abstract

Online hate messaging is a pervasive issue plaguing the well-being of social media users. This research empirically investigates a novel theory positing that online hate may be driven primarily by the pursuit of social approval rather than a direct desire to harm the targets. Results show that toxicity is homophilous in users’ social networks and that a user’s propensity for hostility can be predicted by their social networks. We also illustrate how receiving greater or fewer social engagements in the form of likes, retweets, quotes, and replies affects a user’s subsequent toxicity. We establish a clear connection between receiving social approval signals and increases in subsequent toxicity. Being retweeted plays a particularly prominent role in escalating toxicity. Results also show that not receiving expected levels of social approval leads to decreased toxicity. We discuss the important implications of our research and opportunities to combat online hate.

Suggested Citation

Jiang, Julie and Luceri, Luca and Walther, Joseph and Ferrara, Emilio, Social Approval and Network Homophily as Motivators of Online Toxicity (October 26, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4614257 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4614257

Julie Jiang

University of Southern California - University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering, Students ( email )

United States

Luca Luceri

University of Southern California - Viterbi School of Engineering ( email )

3650 McClintock Ave
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Joseph Walther

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Emilio Ferrara (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Information Sciences Institute ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://emilio.ferrara.name

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