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PLoS One. 2016 Nov 1;11(11):e0164286. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164286. eCollection 2016.

Civility vs. Incivility in Online Social Interactions: An Evolutionary Approach.

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Department of Economics and Management, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy.
Department of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom.
National Research Council, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Rome, Italy.
Bocconi University and IGIER, Milan, Italy.
Department of Economics and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.


Evidence is growing that forms of incivility-e.g. aggressive and disrespectful behaviors, harassment, hate speech and outrageous claims-are spreading in the population of social networking sites' (SNS) users. Online social networks such as Facebook allow users to regularly interact with known and unknown others, who can behave either politely or rudely. This leads individuals not only to learn and adopt successful strategies for using the site, but also to condition their own behavior on that of others. Using a mean field approach, we define anevolutionary game framework to analyse the dynamics of civil and uncivil ways of interaction in online social networks and their consequences for collective welfare. Agents can choose to interact with others-politely or rudely-in SNS, or to opt out from online social networks to protect themselves from incivility. We find that, when the initial share of the population of polite users reaches a critical level, civility becomes generalized if its payoff increases more than that of incivility with the spreading of politeness in online interactions. Otherwise, the spreading of self-protective behaviors to cope with online incivility can lead the economyto non-socially optimal stationary states. JEL Codes: C61, C73, D85, O33, Z13. PsycINFO Codes: 2240, 2750.

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