Using Facebook Actually Reduces Ethnic Tension, New Study Finds
Facebook is frequently accused of exacerbating various negative social phenomena: hate speech, conspiracy theories, and even ethnic tensions. In Myanmar, for instance, social media accounts associated with the government’s military have stoked considerable violence against the Rohingya, the country’s Muslim minority population.
But a new study suggests there are situations where Facebook actually serves to lessen the odds of ethnic violence. This matters, because the overwhelming tendency within traditional media is to universally pan social media as a significant cause of social strife.
The situation is much more complicated, according to study recently published by the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers conducted the study in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 2019, during a week of public remembrance for the genocide of Bosniak Muslims that occurred there in the early 1990s. Bosniak, Serbian (who are Slavic and largely Eastern Orthodox), and Croatian (who are Slavic and largely Roman Catholic) participants agreed not to use Facebook, which accounts for roughly 99 percent of the social media market in the country. Researchers ensured compliance by checking their accounts for activity. After the week was over, researchers surveyed participants about their attitudes toward other ethnic groups and compared their answers with a control group that had remained active on Facebook during the remembrance period.
They were surprised by the results: The offline group had a greater dislike of other ethnicities than the group that remained online. Again, the previous assumption made by many critics of social media is that Facebook creates echo chambe
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