Facebook’s automated systems and unfortunate choice of words might be directly effecting the perceptions of racism for some users. A new study has found that the social network is finding unexpected ways to spread racist messages.
While we often think of Facebook and racism as something that happens among bigoted commenters, the truth is the network’s user logs reveal a more prevalent problem. The study published in the Computers in Human Behavior examines racism based on how long a user remained logged into the social network.
The study finds that the longer one is logged in, the more a user absorbs negative racist sentiments. Examining more than 600 participants, including 70 percent females, the study asked each user to read three different Facebook “notes” about race. Each of the notes had a different focus. The first note was a ”superiority message” focused on white superiority, the second was a “victim message” that suggested white people were victims of racist behavior and the third was “the egalitarian message,” which was written to indicate the writer still believed that racism was an issue for black people. Researchers, upon completion of the study, found:
The ability of racist messages to spread via social networks is of concern as people are increasingly using Facebook not only as a way to connecting with friends, but as a primary source of information. Frequent users are particularly disposed to be influenced by negative racial messages.
The egalitarian message was adopted by most light users of Facebook.