Moral outrage in the digital age


Moral outrage is an ancient emotion that is now widespread on digital media and online social networks. How might these new technologies change the expression of moral outrage and its social consequences?
But online platforms have profoundly changed the incentives of information sharing. Because they compete for our attention to generate advertising revenue, their algorithms promote content that is most likely to be shared, regardless of whether it benefits those who share it — or is even true.
Outrage-inducing content appears to be more prevalent and potent online than offline. Future studies should investigate the extent to which digital media platforms intensify moral emotions, promote habit formation, suppress productive social discourse, and change the nature of moral outrage itself. There are vast troves of data that are directly pertinent to these questions, but not all of it is publicly available. These data can and should be used to understand how new technologies might transform ancient social emotions from a force for collective good into a tool for collective self-destruction.

Moral outrage in the digital age

If your read French, see also: Du danger de (trop) s’indigner en ligne.


Political segregation

Social networks are also a cause for the increase political segregation. For a full discussion, see:

Moral outrage and responsibility

The Nature paper points-out many important variables in the continuing erosion of socially productive discourse. Even as a non-professional in the area of behavioral science, I have observed and experienced many of the manifestations and trends described in the Nature paper. I embrace critical research directed toward understanding and describing the phenomena of moral outrage and it's short and long term consequences both for individuals and societies.

Again, however, when thinking of this issue I become enmeshed in the question of cause and effect. I have long been concerned by a diminishing 'sense of responsibility' in society. In the realm of social networks, what are the legitimate metes and bounds of responsibility? The fiscal 'responsibility' of a corporation to its stake-holders is well understood and codified in law. Is the moral 'responsibility' of a corporation to society equally well articulated? I submit it is not. I was appalled to note the credulity with which I read this sentence in the Nature article "Technology companies have argued that their products provide neutral platforms for social behaviours but do not change those behaviours.". It was only after a few moments of reflection that I realized that neither claim can presently be justified or validated. Whence cometh the moral justification for making these claims?

Equally troubling is an inquiry into the 'responsibility' of society and its leaders - political, educational, social, spiritual, familial. Think for a moment about the shirking of moral authority and shunning of responsibility for demonstrating the hazards of bullying. Begin at the highest office of the U.S. Democracy and work your way down through every nook and cranny of our society till you come to 'self' and ask "who will take responsibility to behave appropriately and constructively in this society?"

Will be interested in the thoughts and opinions of others.