Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 629–649 | Cite as

Tweetment Effects on the Tweeted: Experimentally Reducing Racist Harassment

  • Kevin MungerEmail author
Original Paper


I conduct an experiment which examines the impact of group norm promotion 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.


Online harassment Social media Randomized field experiment Social identity 



I would like to thank Chris Dawes, Neal Beck, Eric Dickson, James Hodgdon Bisbee, David Broockman, Livio Di Lonardo, Ryan Enos and Drew Dimmery, along with three anonymous reviewers; participants at the 2015 Summer Methods Meeting, the Harvard Experimental Political Science Graduate Student Conference, Neal's Seminar, the Yale ISPS Experiments Workshop and the NYU Graduate Political Economy Seminar; and members of the NYU Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) Lab, for their valuable feedback on earlier versions of this project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he had no conflicts of interest with respect to his authorship or the publication of this article.

Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the New York University Institutional Review Board.

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9373_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (392 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 393 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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