August 13 (UPI) – The “likes” and “shares” on social networks help amplify expressions of moral outrage on Facebook and Twitter, often disseminating more “extreme” opinions, according to a study published Friday by Science Advances.
Twitter users who received more likes and retweets when they expressed outrage at a current event, like the Senate hearings for Supreme Court-appointed Brett Kavanaugh in a tweet , were more likely to share similar feelings in later posts, the researchers said.
A user who normally averaged five likes or retweets per tweet but received double that amount when expressing outrage, increased their “expression of outrage” from 2% to 3% the next day, according to the data.
While that number seems small, “it can easily change on social media over time,” leading to a 100% increase in comments over time, according to the researchers.
“The amplification of moral outrage is an obvious consequence of the social media business model, which maximizes user engagement,” study co-author Molly Crockett said in a press release.
“We need to be aware that technology companies, through the design of their platforms, have the ability to influence the success or failure of collective movements,” said Crockett, associate professor of psychology at Yale University in New York. Haven, Conn.
While online moral outrage can promote social cooperation and spur social change, it can also lead to harassment of minority groups, the spread of disinformation and increased political polarization, according to Crockett.
For this study, she and her colleagues measured the expression of moral outrage on Twitter during controversial real-life events and studied participant behaviors to test whether social media algorithms, which reward users for publication of popular content, encourage expressions of outrage.
They collected the full tweet history of nearly 3,700 “politically engaged” Twitter users who posted at least one message about Kavanaugh’s audiences in October 2018.
To test the generalization of the results to less politically engaged users, the researchers rounded up the same number of Twitter users who tweeted at least once about an incident of airline passenger abuse occurring at roughly the same time. moment.
The analysis included more than 7,300 users and 12.7 million tweets, they said.
More than half of the tweets studied regarding Kavanaugh’s audiences expressed moral outrage, as determined by a machine learning algorithm developed by the researchers.
The algorithm identified these tweets based on the choice of words – such as “dishonor” and “disgust” – and the use of capital letters and exclamation marks, among other signs.
Members of politically extreme social networks expressed more moral outrage than members of more moderate networks, the researchers said.
However, members of politically moderate networks were actually more influenced by social rewards, prompting many to take more extreme positions and express more moral outrage, the researchers said.
“Our studies reveal that people with politically moderate friends and supporters are more sensitive to social comments that reinforce their expressions of outrage,” Crockett said.
“This suggests a mechanism for moderate groups to radicalize politically over time – the rewards of social media create positive feedback loops that exacerbate outrage,” she said.