We Are (Not) Anonymous - Essays on Anonymity, Discrimination and Online Hate

Dissertation in Economics 2018:6

Author(s): Joakim Jansson
Year: 2018Pages: 183Publisher: Stockholm UniversityCity: Stockholm
ISBN: 978-91-7797-508-3 (print), 978-91-7797-509-0 (online)

We Are (Not) Anonymous - Essays on Anonymity, Discrimination and Online Hate Joakim Jansson

This doctoral thesis consists of four independent essays in applied empirical microeconomics.

Two of the chapters focus on anonymity as a policy tool and have been the main inspiration for the name of the thesis. Both also focus on discrimination in some sense, either through the direct effect on students grades or on peoples revealed attitudes toward foreigners and feminists. While discrimination in general can be seen as an equity problem, we as economists typically study it for efficiency reasons.

The other two chapters are hence also related to discrimination, but with an increased focus on potential efficiency improvements. I will now briefly describe the main findings of the papers, before concluding.

1. Haters Gonna Hate? – Anonymity, Misogyny and Hate against Foreigners in Online Discussions on Political Topics

A crucial aspect of freedom of expression is anonymity, but anonymity is a contentious matter. It enables individuals to discuss without fear of repercussions, but anonymity can also lead to hateful writings threatening other's freedom. In this paper, we predict hateful content as well as estimate the causal link between anonymity and hateful content in civic discussions online.

First, we make use of a supervised machine-learning model to predict hate in general, hate against foreigners and hate against females and feminists on a dominating Swedish Internet discussion forum.

Second, using a difference-in-difference model we show that an exogenous decrease in anonymity leads to less hateful content in general hate and hate against foreigners, but an increase in hate against females and feminists.

The mechanisms behind the changes is a combination of a decrease in writing hateful, as well as a decrease in writing in general and a substitution of hate against one group to another.

2. Gender Grading Bias at Stockholm University: Quasi-experimental Evidence from an Anonymous Grading Reform

In this paper, we first present novel evidence of grading bias against women at the university level. This is in contrast to previous results at the secondary education level.

Contrary to the gender composition at lower levels of education in Sweden, the teachers and graders at the university level are predominantly male. Thus, an in-group bias mechanism could consistently explain the evidence from both the university and secondary education level.

However, we find that in-group bias can only explain approximately 20 percent of the total grading bias effect at the university level.

3. Anticipation Effects of a Board Room Gender Quota Law: Evidence from a Credible Threat in Sweden

Board room quota laws have recently received an increasing amount of attention. However, laws are typically anticipated and firms can react before the effective date.

This paper provides new results on female board participation and firm performance in Sweden due to a credible threat of a quota law enacted by the Swedish deputy prime minister. The threat caused a substantial and rapid increase in the share of female board members in firms listed on the Stockholm stock exchange. This increase was accompanied by an increase in different measures of firm performance in the same years, which were related to higher sales and lower labor costs.

The results highlight that anticipatory effects of a law could be detrimental to the analysis.

4. Differences in Prison Sentencing between the Genders and Immigration Background in Sweden: Discrepancies and Possible Explanations

I use data on punished drunk drivers to document differences in sentencing for the same crime between immigrants and native born and males and females respectively.

Differences in past criminal activity or other individual observables can not explain the difference in sentencing. Instead, the difference between immigrants and native born seem to be due to statistical discrimination, while differences in recidivism rates might explain the gender difference.

However, the higher incarceration rate for immigrants does not reduce their future number of crimes.


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Martin Ljunge, IFN, is the author of a chapter, "Trust promotes health: addressing reverse causality by studying children of immigrants", in a new book edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg. The cutting edge of research is presented, covering the ever-expanding social capital field.

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