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Why Do Virtual Communities Regulate Speech?

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Virtual community research argues that regulations restricting the kinds of speech in a virtual community decrease the utility to members. However, many virtual communities enact regulations on speech within the virtual community. This research explores the contradiction through a cross-case analysis of virtual communities. It explains the contradiction between research and practice using the theory of collective identity. Communication is important for creating collective identity in virtual communities. However, multiple collective identities can arise. When one collective identity within a virtual community defines itself as adversarial to another, silencing speech emerges as adversarial collective identity creates enduring noise and flames. When the target collective identity creates formal regulations suppressing the adversarial collective identity, communication to foster the target collective identity emerges.

Keywords: Censorship; Hate Speech; Moderation; Regulation; Virtual Communities

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2009

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