8 May 2013

Facebook Self Censorship: 71% of Users Censor their Content

Facebook Self Censorship

The majority of active users of social media, who regularly post content, will be familiar with the sensation of going to post a status or submit content. Going to press post or submit, then questioning the content, editing it, and in some cases deleting the status deciding against publicising it. Introducing Facebook self censorship psychology. Whilst many realised that this process was ingrained within social media society, no study had been conducted to quantify its implications and impact on what actually happens on the ‘invisible’ side of this social media platform. That is until recently.

Facebook Self Censorship

The recent study, conducted by the Facebook team member Adam Kramer and Carnegie Mellon P.H.D. student Sauvik Das. The study group consisted of 3.9 million active users of the platform and their Facebook usage. What is astounding about the results of the study is that they reveal precisely how widespread this Facebook self censorship trend is. The study measured the amount of users who entered over five characters into the content input options on the platform and then deleted the content. The study coined the term “last minute Facebook self censorship” to summarise the phenomenon.

The full results of the study were recently published on Sauvik’s personal website: However the research and its conclusions are scheduled to be displayed in full at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s conference. This will be held in July 2013. The topic for the conference is the uses and implications of both social media networking sites and web blogs.

The numbers of Facebook users who self censor as revealed through the study are massive. Through using their self formulated methodology Kramer and Das discovered that a third of all studied posts were self censored. However they admit there may be some discrepancies and false results here.  However the results overwhelmingly concluded that a total of 71% of all users surveyed embarked on a degree of self censorship when submitting posts or content on the platform.

The average Facebook self censorship user of the study was recorded to do this multiple times, often on the same post or content. Like all good studies, this study correlated the demographic results with the quantity of self censorship. It was found that men overwhelmingly self-censored far more than their female contemporaries. The trend was increased if male users had a greater number of friends. Adversely users who had a diverse collection of friends on the platform were less inclined to self censorship. The factors which the study used to group the friends of users included: gender, sexuality, political or religious affiliation or membership and age.

When asked, the researchers of the study declined to comment on plausible reasons as to why individuals chose to conduct Facebook self censorship. However, earlier studies have provided a variety of reasons as to why users choose to self-censor their posts and content on their Facebook profiles and news they post. The reasons included users deeming their post to be uninteresting; the content did not align with the ideal of their chosen public persona. Other reasons included users declining to post content due to a desire to avoid causing offence or emotional pain to others, other reasons included attempts to avoid opening a conversational can of worms or setting the scene for an argument.

The moral of this research is twofold. Firstly that the variety of content displayed on the platform may be restricted or limited due to users withholding content through self censorship. The second is that users can feel free not to post. There are definitely some situations where self censorship may be for the best: sexist, racist or derogative comments to name a few. However it may also relieve the pressure from users feeling that they have to post or feed content into the platform.