Making the impossible possible? Framing confrontations of racism on social media as norm-setting

Stewart M. Coles, Daniel S. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although confronting racist speech online can reduce future discriminatory behavior, people may be reluctant to confront because they perceive that it will be ineffective in changing racist attitudes. We test one theoretically grounded strategy for increasing white social media users’ willingness to confront online racism: reframing the confrontation goal from attitude change to norm-setting. We examine whether re-framing the confrontation goal in this way is effective under conditions where confrontation is least likely: (a) when the potential confronter is highly cynical about the efficacy of political discussions and (b) when the confrontation target is relationally distant. In a two-wave panel survey experiment collected during the 2020 US presidential election, participants reported greater likelihood of confronting a target when the goal was to set norms regarding racist speech, when they were less cynical of discussions, and when the target was relationally closer to them (e.g. family members as opposed to strangers).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Media and Society
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 3 2023


  • Confrontation
  • political discussion
  • prejudice reduction
  • racism
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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