News editors listed online aggression as one of the main constraints to audience participation and debate in the media. However, previous studies offer contradictory evidence on how aggression affects the amount and civility of user participation. Furthermore, a large portion of these studies focus on the Anglo-Saxon context and follow an experimental design. This study addresses these issues through a content analysis of over 26,000 news comments from two Portuguese newspapers, testing how aggression in comments relates to the number of replies it generates and the aggressiveness of these replies. Results show that aggression generates more aggression in comment sections, but may also increase participation. The latter effect is moderated by the article topic, an important caveat that may explain different outcomes in previous works. The practical implications of these findings and paths for future research are discussed.

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Journal of Applied Communication Research
Department of Media and Communication

Ferreira Goncalves, J.F. (2018). Aggression in news comments: how context and article topic shape user-generated content. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 46(5), 604–620. doi:10.1080/00909882.2018.1529419