With the rise of digital and social media, there is no shortage of communities on the internet that share opinions and ideologies. Social media sites, such as YouTube, allow users to bypass traditional media avenues in order to share ideas and comments with one another. Often, these comments can be seen as taboo by members outside of the community, which leads to suppressed voice rhetoric (SVR).
SVR is particularly prominent among those with seemingly extreme political views, or anyone who feels as though their beliefs are suppressed by the mainstream media. SVR consists of an “us versus them” dynamic, with one public feeling silenced by the other, more accepted public. In this study observing the interactions beneath German news articles, the researchers studied the effects of SVR on individuals and their comments.
The researchers chose to study right-wing counter-public interactions beneath German news articles about refugees. The topic of refugees in Germany has been a hot-button issue for many years and the researchers knew that it would provide the necessary discourse for an effective study.
To conduct the study, the researchers used a web-based survey and measured media trust before administering the survey in order to decipher the effects of SVR on user comments. Participants were randomly assigned to the control group (comments without SVR) or the treatment group (comments with SVR). They were then exposed to a fictional online article from a well-known German news source, with the two fictional comments, and then their responses were gauged via the survey.
Based on the study, it was concluded that those with lower media trust were more likely to speak out in response to the comments containing SVR. Additionally, those exposed to the comments containing SVR reported stronger feelings of social support, meaning that they felt better about sharing their opinions beneath comments of others with similar views.
Marlene Kunst, Florian Toepfl & Leyla Dogruel (2020) Spirals of Speaking Out? Effects of the “Suppressed Voice Rhetoric” on Audiences’ Willingness to Express Their Opinion, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 64:3, 397-417, DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2020.1796390