How Real is Moral Contagion in Online Social Networks?

AbstractPeople increasingly turn to online social networks for information and debate. This means that the structures and properties of these networks, and the information they propagate, play crucial roles in the development of social beliefs, attitudes, and morals. Recently, research has shown that the presence of specific language drives the diffusion of moral messages, regardless of the informational quality, in a phenomenon dubbed moral contagion (Brady et al., 2017). Due to the widespread attention and implications of such findings for science and society, we investigate the presence of moral contagion across six sets of data that capture the communications of naturally-occurring networks on Twitter. Across a large corpus of diverse tweets (n = 525,229), we find moral contagion to be an inconsistent and often absent phenomenon that does not effectively predict message diffusion. The implications and reasons for this finding are discussed.

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