Human Behavior is Key Factor in Online Toxicity: Study Analyzes 500 Million Social Network Threads

Humanity is the root cause of toxic networks

A recent study published in Nature has investigated the issue of online toxicity on social networks, analyzing over 500 million threads, messages, and conversations in English on eight platforms over 34 years. The study’s findings indicate that toxicity is not a consequence of the networks themselves, but rather something more deeply rooted in human behavior.

Professor Walter Quattrociocchi from Sapienza University, along with other academics from his university and the City University and the Alain Turing Institute in London, conducted the research. Despite changes in networks and social norms over time, certain human behaviors persist in online discussions regardless of the platform. This suggests that efforts to moderate content on social platforms may be effective in reducing the prevalence of toxic behavior in the online world.

The study found that user behavior in toxic and non-toxic conversations showed similar patterns in terms of participation. This means that despite common belief, toxicity does not necessarily deter participation or diminish the appeal of a platform. However, it does highlight that human behavior is linked to a certain level of toxicity on networks, which can have negative effects on discourse and environment.

The findings could help inform strategies to moderate content on social platforms and reduce the prevalence of toxic behavior online. By understanding the behaviors that contribute to online toxicity, we can take steps to improve the discourse and environment on social networks for everyone who uses them.

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