Humanity is the root cause of toxic networks

The Dark Side of Human Behavior: How Social Networks and Algorithms Contribute to Toxic Online Environments

A recent study published in Nature has investigated the role of social networks and their algorithms in the development of a toxic online environment. The study analyzed over 500 million threads, messages, and conversations on eight platforms over 34 years, including Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

The results indicate that toxicity is not solely the fault of the networks themselves but rather a reflection of deeply ingrained human behaviors. Professor Walter Quattrociocchi from Sapienza University, along with other academics from his university and the City University and the Alain Turing Institute in London, found that despite changes in networks and social norms over time, certain human behaviors persist in online discussions regardless of the platform.

Furthermore, the study found that toxicity does not necessarily decrease the appeal of a platform. User behavior in toxic and non-toxic conversations showed similar participation patterns, suggesting that toxicity may not deter participation as commonly assumed. While human behavior is linked to a certain level of toxicity on networks, it does not mean that all online interactions are doomed to be toxic or that efforts to mitigate toxic behavior are ineffective.

The findings could help inform strategies to moderate content on social platforms to reduce the prevalence of toxic behavior in the online world. This research sheds light on the behaviors that contribute to online toxicity and provides valuable insights for improving the online discourse and environment on social networks.

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