Civility By Design

Communications scholar Sarah Stroud, who studies online news, thinks comment sections could be made more civil and ideologically diverse with just a few tweaks. Liz Stinson discusses one experiment:

[Professor of communication studies Talia] Stroud wanted to know if it was possible to reduce the level of incivility by altering the wording of the “like” button and increasing a reporter’s involvement in active discussions. Over the course of her study, she found measurable trends towards openness to counter-attitudinal ideas just by switching the “like” or “recommend” button with “respect.” It became clear that people were much more likely to click on opposing viewpoints with the “respect” button in place, and in fact, it led to more interaction in the comments section in general. For example, in a comments section with eight comments,  people clicked “recommend” an average of 1.5 times, while they clicked “respect” an average of 1.8 times. “You wouldn’t like a comment that held a totally different view than your own, and I understand why,” she says. “It sounds like you support of it and approve and agree with it.” Respect, on the other hand, is more neutral and doesn’t carry connotations of concurrence.