This Analysis of 70 Million Comments Proves White Male Journalists Have It Pretty Good, Comparatively
Internet comments are bad for everyone, right? Sure, but marginalized writers tend to accrue a higher volume of abuse in the comment sections of their articles. Many researchers have documented this phenomenon in the past, but this new study gets very specific in its focus by analyzing internet comments sections on a media website.
Said website, The Guardian, analyzed 70 million internet comments and documented how many of those got deleted by moderators. As the graph above shows, “articles written by women got more blocked (i.e. abusive or disruptive) comments across almost all sections.” This abuse increased when women journalists wrote articles for sections that are more dominated by male writers, such as sports and technology coverage.
Although much of their data focused on the intersection of gender, The Guardian also found that other forms of marginalization (e.g. “ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBT people”) also played a role in whether a writer was likelier to receive more abuse in the comments section. The opinion section served as the test case for this:
Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the ‘top 10’, one was Muslim and one Jewish.
And the 10 regular writers who got the least abuse? All men.
The Guardian also noticed that certain topics, like “feminism” and “rape,” garnered more negative comments than stories about, say, crossword puzzles. Discussions of controversial issues, such as the Israel/Palestine conflict, also increased the likelihood that the comments section would require some heavy moderation. Although the Guardian does not plan to do away with their comments section entirely, they did specify that pieces about “contentious subjects, such as migration and race” would likely result in closed comment sections.
So, all that data proves that marginalized writers do get more pushback in response to their work, and they’re not imagining it. Yet I’m still sure the response to this will still be something like, “stop complaining and do something,” right? Well, The Guardian has an answer for that too, in the form of this feature about several advocates working on anti-harassment tools for online spaces. It’ll make for an uplifting read, once you’re done reading all of those depressing statistics.
(via The Guardian)
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