Work packages

WP 1: Conceptualizing and mapping pro-social bystander reactions

The objective of WP1 is to develop a new, empirically grounded conception of pro-social bystander reactions to online political hostility that transcends crude dichotomies and ensures the highest possible ecological validity and real-life relevance. Building on this grounded conceptualization, the aim is to devise and validate a new survey instruments to measure the spectrum of bystander reactions online. 

To achieve this aim, WP1 sets up a novel data stream containing real-time observations and first-hand experiences of pro-social bystander reactions to online political hostility. This data stream will triangulate data sources, including political conversations scraped from Twitter and Facebook and interviews with cyber-bystanders who reacted pro-socially to political hostility. Computational methods will be used to identify pro-social bystander reactions and map their prevalence on different social media platforms.

WP 2: Testing causes of pro-social bystander reactions

Based on the ‘Consequential Model’ of pro-social bystander reactions, WP2 will formulate and test specific hypotheses about the factors that shape cyber-bystander decision-making and pro-social reactions accordingly.

To test the causes of pro-social bystander reactions, the project employs a novel combination of survey and behavioural experiments. This includes population representative panel and factorial survey experiments, and behavioural experiments using a mock social media platform. The main case countries of the project are Denmark, the US and and the UK.

In this context, the project will develop and implement a new form of experimental stimulus – the ‘Immersive Bystander Video Environment’ – which can be implemented in large-scale, online surveys. The idea is to produce point-of-view videos of online interaction where participants will be exposed to political hostility as bystanders.

The findings of the population-based survey experiments are limited to studying development in behavioral intentions, not actual behavior. To accommodate this shortcoming partially, WP2 and WP3 also engage behavioral experiments using a mock social media platform.

WP 3: Testing consequences of pro-social bystander reactions

WP3 builds on and extends the experiments conducted in WP2 to test short- and long-term consequences of exposure to pro-social bystander reactions. Specific hypotheses regarding the potential short-term cumulative effect and long-term civilizing effect of pro-social bystander reactions will be formulated and tested.

By randomly exposing participants to stimuli containing/not containing pro-social reactions, we will measure the effect on reported responsibility, situational ambiguity, perceived costs of reaction and bystander behavioral intentions. By embedding these experiments in national representative panel surveys, the project aims to estimate causal effects of pro-social bystander reactions across time (An & Winship 2017).

WP 4: Testing encouragement cues of pro-social bystander reactions

To further explore the potential of pro-social bystander reactions in preventing and mitigating the negative impact of online political hostility on society, WP4 tests whether and how pro-social bystander reactions can be encouraged. WP4 aims to establish proof-of-concept of the effectiveness of communication campaigns and social media platform alterations in encouraging pro-social bystander behavior.

WP4 will test extant bystander campaign material in new contexts (i.e., regarding political hostility online) and develop innovative material to be tested. Informed by findings of WP2 and WP3, a sample of communications will be tested that vary in terms of attempting to increase perceived responsibility, identification with victim or lower perceived costs of reaction. The effect of exposure to such communications on bystander situational assessment and behavioral intentions will be estimated through the population-based panel survey experiments where a random sample of participants is pre-treated.