Tweetment Effects on the Tweeted: Experimentally
Reducing Racist Harassment
Published online: 11 November 2016
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract I conduct an experiment which examines the impact of group norm pro-
motion and social sanctioning on racist online harassment. Racist online harassment
de-mobilizes the minorities it targets, and the open, unopposed expression of racism
in a public forum can legitimize racist viewpoints and prime ethnocentrism. I employ
an intervention designed to reduce the use of anti-black racist slurs by white men on
Twitter. I collect a sample of Twitter users who have harassed other users and use
accounts I control (‘‘bots’’) to sanction the harassers. By varying the identity of the
bots between in-group (white man) and out-group (black man) and by varying the
number of Twitter followers each bot has, I ﬁnd that subjects who were sanctioned by
a high-follower white male signiﬁcantly reduced their use of a racist slur. This paper
extends ﬁndings from lab experiments to a naturalistic setting using an objective,
behavioral outcome measure and a continuous 2-month data collection period. This
represents an advance in the study of prejudiced behavior.
Keywords Online harassment Social media Randomized ﬁeld experiment
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9373-5)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Replication materials are available on the author’s website, www.kevinmunger.com.
Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th Street, 2nd ﬂoor, New York, NY,
Polit Behav (2017) 39:629–649