The Influence of Anonymity and Incivility on Perceptions of User Comments on News Websites

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912–936
Journal / PublicationMass Communication and Society
Issue number6
Online published7 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


The present study examines how anonymity and incivility influence interpersonal evaluations and message persuasion in the context of online user comments. The results of two experiments showed that the lack of identity cues undermined the perceived credibility of commenters and the persuasiveness of public discussion in comment forums. Additionally, participants who read uncivil comments following a news article were more likely to negatively evaluate the commenters and the content of the online discussions compared to their counterparts exposed to civil comments. The study not only demonstrates the corrosive effects of online incivility on deliberative outcomes but also provides evidence to better explain anonymous communication from the perspective of message receivers.