Online political hostility, such as online hate speech, constitutes a challenge to democracy through negative effects on political participation. The challenge is amplified by widespread apathy among witnesses. While research within political science has focused on the aggressors and explored how politically hostile behavior develops, much less attention is given to bystanders and the potential of pro-social bystander reactions to mitigate the negative impact of online political hostility.

This project advances a new research agenda, shifting focus from explaining the anti-social behavior of online political hostility to explaining pro-social bystander reactions and their consequences. Advancing the social-psychological study of bystanders, the project develops a new inter-disciplinary theory of pro-social bystander reactions, theorizing bystander decision-making in the context of online political hostility, and its short- and long-term consequences.

The project argues, that pro-social reactions from cyber-bystanders represent an un-realized potential in mitigating the detrimental effects of online political hostility on democracy. As such, the focus is on how ordinary citizens react as bystanders to online political hostility.


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 101002251).