Social media: Users on Facebook and Twitter are encouraged to express outrage by likes and shares


    Social media users are encouraged to express more outrage on Facebook and Twitter because they get rewarded with ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, researchers say

    • Researchers at Yale University trained an AI to identify moral outrage in tweets 
    • They used this software to analyse some 12.7 million tweets by 7,331 individuals
    • If outrage is met with positive feedback, people post more of the same
    • The findings challenge the notion that social media provides a neutral venue

    Expressions of outrage are effectively encouraged on platforms like Facebook and Twitter because they are rewarded with ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, a study has concluded. 

    Researchers from Yale University used artificial intelligence to scan the tweets of more than 7,000 individuals and see how levels or moral outrage changed with time.

    Their analysis revealed that the more positive responses people got for expressing outrage online, the more likely they were to post more indignant content in future.

    They also found politically moderate individuals to be more susceptible to the social rewards of expressing outrage — showing how they may be radicalised over time.

    These findings challenge the claims of social media firms that their platforms just provide a neutral venue for conversations that would otherwise happen elsewhere.

    Expressions of outrage are effectively encouraged on platforms like Facebook and Twitter because they are rewarded with 'likes' and 'shares', a study has concluded

    Expressions of outrage are effectively encouraged on platforms like Facebook and Twitter because they are rewarded with ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, a study has concluded

    ‘Amplification of moral outrage is a clear consequence of social media’s business model, which optimises for user engagement,’ said paper author and psychologist Molly Crockett of Yale University.

    ‘Given that moral outrage plays a crucial role in social and political change, we should be aware that tech companies, through the design of their platforms, have the ability to influence the success or failure of collective movements.

    ‘Our data show that social media platforms do not merely reflect what is happening in society. Platforms create incentives that change how users react to political events over time.’

    In their study, Professor Crockett and colleagues developed a machine-learning powered AI system that was capable of detecting moral outrage in Twitter postings.

    Using this, they analysed a total of 12.7 million tweets from 7,331 individuals to determine if users tended to express more outrage over time.

    The team found that those users who received more ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ in response to their expressions of outrage were significantly more likely to express outrage in the subsequent post that they made.

    To validate these findings, the researchers went on to perform two controlled behavioural experiments involving 240 volunteers who used a simulated, Twitter-like social media platform.

    These tests also found that being rewarded for expressing outrage encouraged users to act more outraged over time.

    Based on their original analysis, the team also found that outrage was more extensively expressed among members of politically extreme online networks — but that politically moderate users of social media were more influenced by the rewards.

    ‘Our studies find that people with politically moderate friends and followers are more sensitive to social feedback that reinforces their outrage expressions,’ explained Professor Crockett. 

    ‘This suggests a mechanism for how moderate groups can become politically radicalised over time — the rewards of social media create positive feedback loops that exacerbate outrage.’

    ‘This is the first evidence that some people learn to express more outrage over time because they are rewarded by the basic design of social media,’ said paper author and psychologist William Brady, also of Yale.

    He added: ‘Social media’s incentives are changing the tone of our political conversations online.’ 

    The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science Advances. 


    According to Dr Larisa McLoughlin, a researcher at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, cyber bullying can include both overt (name calling, mocking, shaming) or covert (exclusion, isolation) aspects.

    Cyberbullying can involve written-verbal behaviors such as phone calls, text messages and comments on social media.

    Eight examples of cyberbullying involve: 

    1. Trolling: purposefully posting hurtful comments to provoke a response. 
    2. Flaming: an array of aggressive comments from one to another.
    3. Visual Behaviors: posting, sending or sharing pictures or videos, usually to cause embarrassment. 
    4. Exclusion: intentionally excluding someone from an online group or, in the case of online gaming, excluding a player from groups or teams.
    5. Catfishing: falsifying online identities to trick the victim into romantic relationships. 
    6. Impersonation: using the victim’s name and account to damage the victim. 
    7. Stalking: for example sending multiple text messages to the victim to show the bully knows exactly what they are doing, where they have been.
    8. Threatening violence: for example threatening some form of traditional bullying, such as a physical fight.



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