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Linked – Actually, the internet’s always been this bad

A new study considers 30 years of comments, with surprising conclusions

A team of Italian researchers evaluated more than half a billion comments spanning 30 years, and concluded that online discourse is no more “toxic” today than it was in the early 1990s.

This might seem surprising, but if you were online in the 90s, remember what Usenet flame wars and Yahoo comment sections were like. Can you honestly say they were much different than we see on social media now?

The study authors pointed out that they only researched text-based platforms. Video platforms may be worse in terms of toxicity. However, that hasn’t been my experience; they seem pretty similar to me, but that’s just anecdotal. They also pointed out that current-day social networks are much larger. Many more people see the toxicity on Facebook than people who saw a Usenet post in the 90s. That also means there is more total toxicity. It might only be 7-10% of the content, but the content generated by 500 million users dwarfs the content generated by 10,000 users. So there’s more of it; we are more aware of it, but the percentage hasn’t changed much. This can only lead us to the conclusion Caitlin wrote in the post above:

It’s not the internet, babe. It’s human nature.


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