Censoring political opposition online: Who does it and why

Ashwini Ashokkumar, Sanaz Talaifar, William T. Fraser, Rodrigo Landabur, Michael Buhrmester, Ángel Gómez, Borja Paredes, William B. Swann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As ordinary citizens increasingly moderate online forums, blogs, and their own social media feeds, a new type of censoring has emerged wherein people selectively remove opposing political viewpoints from online contexts. In three studies of behavior on putative online forums, supporters of a political cause (e.g., abortion or gun rights) preferentially censored comments that opposed their cause. The tendency to selectively censor cause-incongruent online content was amplified among people whose cause-related beliefs were deeply rooted in or “fused with” their identities. Moreover, six additional identity-related measures also amplified the selective censoring effect. Finally, selective censoring emerged even when opposing comments were inoffensive and courteous. We suggest that because online censorship enacted by moderators can skew online content consumed by millions of users, it can systematically disrupt democratic dialogue and subvert social harmony.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104031
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Censorship
  • Identity fusion
  • Identity politics
  • Moderators
  • Selective censoring
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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