Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The UK Guardian Guards Against Trolling

This is an interesting piece by the UK Guardian newspaper:

New research into our own comment threads provides the first quantitative evidence for what female journalists have long suspected: that articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about.
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 paper uses the proportion of comments that are blocked based on their commenting policy as their measure of trolling, and though that measure has some problems I think using it is a first good step.

What I'd love to see is an experiment where two columnists write two columns, essentially saying the same things in one of the hot-button areas, such as feminism*.  One columnist should be a man and the other a woman, and there should be some time between the columns, but not too much.  The time is needed so that the nature of the experiment is hidden.

Then see what happens in the comments!

Ideally, of course, exactly the same piece would be posted under a male and female bylines, to see what the effect might be.  I can't see how it could be done in practice, but we should be able to get fairly close to that by making sure that the two columns state the same arguments, albeit in different written forms.


*  Now that I have thought about this a little more, the same should be done for a thoroughly boring and bland article, too, and ideally also by all sorts of race/religion pairings of the writers.