This project uncovers how changes in exposure of one’s online identity affected individuals’ online political speech. Online commentary is an important form of political speech on social media. Anonymity on online platforms is often cited as a fundamental characteristic that exacerbates social commentary’s role in disseminating misinformation and the incivility of online exchanges. Will imposing an online identity change users’ online behaviors? Using a natural experiment on South Korea’s dominant online news platform, Naver, we examine the role of social identity in alleviating the spread of misinformation and incivility in online discussion. Naver moved away from the YouTube model (complete anonymity) and became closer to the Facebook model (revealed offline identity) by making comment histories available to the public. This sudden policy change created an online identity for users of the news platform. We will investigate whether Naver’s policy change affected the frequency of commenting and proportion of vulgar comments, containment of misinformation in comments, and types of articles that online users selected to comment on. The timing that Naver chose to change its policy coincided with a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases and the active campaigning period for legislative election in South Korea. In addition to the general effects of the policy change, we especially focus on (i) Covid-19 related misinformation and partisan polarization in framing and processing health information, and (ii) incivility and polarization during the campaign period for the South Korean general election, which was held on April 15, 2020.
Hye Young You
Assistant Professor, New York University