Several studies have linked deindividuation to an increase in aggression and incivility. This paper seeks to ascertain the influence of anonymity and hierarchy in online aggression by comparing two different newspaper comment sections: one with a hierarchical system and the other with an equalitarian setting. This study distinguishes itself form previous works by analyzing systems where identification is optional and where identified and anonymous users coexist. The hierarchical solution might be relevant to dissuade aggression when optional identifiability is seen as an essential asset. Results show that a hierarchical system provides some improvements in terms of civility and comment moderation, but that poor implementation of the hierarchy causes perversions in the system and affects its effectiveness.

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Department of Media and Communication

Ferreira Goncalves, J.F. (2015). A peaceful pyramid? Hierarchy and anonymity in newspaper comment sections. Observatorio, 9(4), 1–13. doi:10.15847/obsOBS942015910