The internet is a cesspit of conflict, right? No – it’s an engine of consensus

A new report suggests that people are far less likely to express disagreement with prevailing views in social media than in other contexts – call it the ‘spiral of silence’

The big problem with the Internet is incivility and immoderate speech, right? That’s the reason that British social media users are prosecuted in their hundreds, that Australian tabloids enlist sports stars in campaigns to “stop the trolls” and beef up our own laws, that journalists complain endlessly about the antagonism they cop from readers, and that public awareness campaigns tell us what to do in cases of persistent online conflict.

This idea that the Internet is a hotbed of irrational, intractable conflict — especially when it comes to politics – is by now an article of conventional wisdom. So common sense should be troubled by the release of a report yesterday from the respected Pew Center suggesting that people were far less likely to express disagreement with prevailing views in social media than in other contexts…

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