Breaking the Silence: Investigating Which Types of Moderation Reduce Negative Effects of Sexist Social Media Content

Julia Sasse, Jens Grossklags

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sexist content is widespread on social media and can reduce women's psychological well-being and their willingness to participate in online discourse, making it a societal issue. To counter these effects, social media platforms employ moderators. To date, little is known about the effectiveness of different forms of moderation in creating a safe space and their acceptance, in particular from the perspective of women as members of the targeted group and users in general (rather than perpetrators). In this research, we propose that some common forms of moderation can be systematized along two facets of visibility, namely visibility of sexist content and of counterspeech. In an online experiment (N = 839), we manipulated these two facets and tested how they shaped social norms, feelings of safety, and intent to participate, as well as fairness, trustworthiness, and efficacy evaluations. In line with our predictions, deletion of sexist content - i.e., its invisibility - and (public) counterspeech - i.e., its visibility - against visible sexist content contributed to creating a safe space. Looking at the underlying psychological mechanism, we found that these effects were largely driven by changes in what was perceived normative in the presented context. Interestingly, deletion of sexist content was judged as less fair than counterspeech against visible sexist content. Our research contributes to a growing body of literature that highlights the importance of norms in creating safer online environments and provides practical implications for moderators for selecting actions that can be effective and accepted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3610176
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW2
StatePublished - 4 Oct 2023


  • behavior change
  • computer mediated communication
  • gender and identity
  • quantitative methods
  • social media and online communities
  • social networking site design and use


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