This book investigates what influence online incivility-through user-generated comments on news websites-has on public debate. Built on the premise that public discussions about important topics are vital to a healthy democracy, the book analyzes 3,508 online comments in order to understand what factors in comments make them more susceptible to incivility, defined as nasty remarks rife with profanity. It also examines comments for attributes of deliberation, which are discussions across difference supported by evidence and rational arguments. Using an experiment, the book shows that uncivil comments jumpstart a chain reaction, leading first to negative emotion and then to greater intention to get politically involved. Overall, Online Incivility and Public Debate: Nasty Talk argues that while incivility mars online debate, it may also spark interest in important topics and allow for positive "deliberative moments" of quality discussion.
Gina Masullo Chen, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Faculty Research Associate with the Engaging News Project at The University of Texas at Austin, USA. She is co-editor of Scandal in a Digital Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Her research focuses on online debate.
Section I: Incivility and Why It Matters
Chapter 1: Introduction: Incivility in Today's World
Chapter 2: Online Incivility and Public Discourse
Chapter 3: Nasty Talk Online
Section II: Online Incivility: Three Examples in the News
Chapter 4: Can Incivility and Deliberation Co-Exist?
Chapter 5: Analyzing Comments in the News
Section III: Incivility and Political Participation
Chapter 6: Incivility and Speaking Out
Chapter 7: Testing the "Defensive Effect" Section IV: What This Means for Public Debate
Chapter 8: Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?