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Open AccessArticle

Anonymity and Inhibition in Newspaper Comments

Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies, University of Bergen, 5007 Bergen, Norway
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Diego Reforgiato Recupero
Information 2021, 12(3), 106;
Received: 19 January 2021 / Revised: 14 February 2021 / Accepted: 27 February 2021 / Published: 3 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Language Processing for Social Media)
Newspaper comment sections allow readers to voice their opinion on a wide range of topics, provide feedback for journalists and editors and may enable public debate. Comment sections have been criticized as a medium for toxic comments. Such behavior in comment sections has been attributed to the effect of anonymity. Several studies have found a relationship between anonymity and toxic comments, based on laboratory conditions or the comparison of comments from different sites or platforms. The current study uses real-world data sampled from The Washington Post and The New York Times, where anonymous and non-anonymous users comment on the same articles. This sampling strategy decreases the possibility of interfering variables, ensuring that any observed differences between the two groups can be explained by anonymity. A small but significant relationship between anonymity and toxic comments was found, though the effects of both the newspaper and the direction of the comment were stronger. While it is true that non-anonymous commenters write fewer toxic comments, we observed that many of the toxic comments were directed at others than the article or author of the original article. This may indicate a way to restrict toxic comments, while allowing anonymity, by restricting the reference to others, e.g., by enforcing writers to focus on the topic. View Full-Text
Keywords: anonymity; inhibition; disinhibition; incivility; toxic comments anonymity; inhibition; disinhibition; incivility; toxic comments
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MDPI and ACS Style

Knustad, M.; Johansson, C. Anonymity and Inhibition in Newspaper Comments. Information 2021, 12, 106.

AMA Style

Knustad M, Johansson C. Anonymity and Inhibition in Newspaper Comments. Information. 2021; 12(3):106.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Knustad, Magnus; Johansson, Christer. 2021. "Anonymity and Inhibition in Newspaper Comments" Information 12, no. 3: 106.

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