Incivility, Online Participation, and Message Delivery in the 2019 Hong Kong Protests: Exploring the Relationship

Gregory Gondwe 1 *
More Detail
1 University of Colorado – Boulder, USA
* Corresponding Author
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 10, Issue 4, Article No: e202022.
OPEN ACCESS   2639 Views   1129 Downloads   Published online: 19 Jul 2020
Download Full Text (PDF)


This study used the 2019 online Hong Kong protests to understand whether negative messages serve as mediators between incivility and civic engagement, and to investigate whether incivility does trivialize the value of information and the message intended. The study sought to examine the impact of two types of incivility in online discourse on online participation and showed that the relationship is mediated by information value and message importance. Through ‘netnographic’ research, quasi-experiments, and online surveys, the findings were able to demonstrate that incivility (good) was necessary for increasing online participation, therefore, allowing negative messages to serve as mediators with indirect effects. The mediating effects were observed in the arousal of emotions that led to participation. Second, findings suggested that (good) incivility defined the importance of information and the content of the message.


Gondwe, G. (2020). Incivility, Online Participation, and Message Delivery in the 2019 Hong Kong Protests: Exploring the Relationship. Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, 10(4), e202022.


  • Anderson, A. A., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D. A., Xenos, M. A., & Ladwig, P. (2014). The “nasty effect:” Online incivility and risk perceptions of emerging technologies. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19(3), 373-387.
  • Arendt, H. (1970). On violence. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Asongu, S. A., & Nwachukwu, J. C. (2016). Revolution empirics: predicting the Arab Spring. Empirical Economics, 51(2), 439-482.
  • Bentler, P. (1993). EQS Structural equations program manual. Los Angeles, CA: BMDP Statistical Software.
  • Black, L. W. (2008). Deliberation, storytelling, and dialogic Moments: Deliberation, storytelling, and dialogic moments. Communication Theory, 18(1), 93e116.
  • Borah, P. (2014). Interaction of incivility and news frames in the Political Blogosphere: Consequences and psychological. Handbook of Research on Political Activism in the Information Age, 407.
  • Bradley, M. M., & Lang, P. J. (2000). Measuring emotion: Behavior, feeling, and physiology. Cognitive neuroscience of emotion, 25, 49-59.
  • Calabrese, A. (2015). Liberalism’s disease: Civility above justice. European Journal of Communication, 30(5), 539-553.
  • Cantoni, D., Yang, D. Y., Yuchtman, N., & Zhang, Y. J. (2019). Protests as strategic games: experimental evidence from Hong Kong’s antiauthoritarian movement. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 134(2), 1021-1077.
  • Coe, K., Kenski, K., & Rains, S. A. (2014). Online and uncivil? Patterns and determinants of incivility in newspaper website comments. Journal of Communication, 64(4), 658e679.
  • Dahlgren, P. (2005). The Internet, public spheres, and political communication: Dispersion and deliberation. Political communication, 22(2), 147-162.
  • Druckman, J. N., Gubitz, S. R., Lloyd, A. M., & Levendusky, M. S. (2019). How Incivility on Partisan Media (De) Polarizes the Electorate. The Journal of Politics, 81(1), 291-295.
  • Fanon, F. (2004). The Wretched of the Earth. 1961. Trans. Richard Philcox. New York: Grove.
  • Ferree, M. M., Gamson, W. A., Rucht, D., & Gerhards, J. (2002). Shaping abortion discourse: Democracy and the public sphere in Germany and the United States. Cambridge University Press.
  • Fok, L. K. (2017). The Polarization and Civility of Hong Kong Political Discourse on Facebook News Pages.
  • Frazer, E., & Hutchings, K. (2008). On politics and violence: Arendt Contra Fanon. Contemporary political theory, 7(1), 90-108.
  • Gondwe, G. (2018). News Believability & Trustworthiness on African Online Networks: An Experimental Design. International Communication Research Journal, 53(2), 51-74
  • Habermas, J. (1997). The public sphere (pp. 105-108). na.
  • Hirshleifer, J. (1973, May). Where are we in the theory of information? The American Economic Review, 63(2). Papers and Proceedings of the Eighty-fifth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (pp. 31–39).
  • Hopp, T., & Ferrucci, P. (2020). A Spherical Rendering of Deviant Information Resilience. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 1077699020916428.
  • Hopp, T., & Vargo, C. J. (2017). Does negative campaign advertising stimulate uncivil communication on social media? Measuring audience response using big data. Computers in Human Behavior, 68, 368-377.
  • Howard, P. N., Duffy, A., Freelon, D., Hussain, M. M., Mari, W., & Maziad, M. (2011). Opening closed regimes: what was the role of social media during the Arab Spring?. Available at SSRN 2595096.
  • Jamieson, K. H., & Hardy, B. (2012). What is civil engaged argument and why does aspiring to it matter? PS: Political Science & Politics, 45(3), 412-415.
  • Khondker, H. H. (2011). Role of the new media in the Arab Spring. Globalizations, 8(5), 675-679.
  • Krugman, P. (2003). Behind the great divide. The New York Times, 18.
  • Marcuse, H. (1969). An essay on liberation (Vol. 319). Beacon Press.
  • McHugo, G. J., Lanzetta, J. T., Sullivan, D. G., Masters, R. D., & Englis, B. G. (1985). Emotional reactions to a political leader’s expressive displays. Journal of personality and social psychology, 49(6), 1513.
  • McKeown, J., & Ladegaard, H. J. (2020). Exploring the metadiscursive realization of incivility in TV news discourse. Discourse, Context & Media, 33, 100367.
  • Papacharissi, Z. (2004). Democracy online: Civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups. New Media & Society, 6(2), 259e283.
  • Santana, A. D. (2014). Virtuous or vitriolic: The effect of anonymity on civility in online newspaper reader comment boards. Journalism Practice, 8(1), 18-33.
  • Stieglitz, S., & Dang-Xuan, L. (2013). Emotions and information diffusion in social media—sentiment of microblogs and sharing behavior. Journal of management information systems, 29(4), 217-248.
  • Tandoc Jr, E. C., Ferrucci, P., & Duffy, M. (2015). Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is Facebooking depressing?. Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 139-146.
  • Vieweg, S. (2010). Microblogged contributions to the emergency arena: Discovery, interpretation and implications. CSCW, February 6–10 (pp. 515–516). Savanah, GA: ACM. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]
  • Wang, M. Y., & Silva, D. E. (2018). A slap or a jab: An experiment on viewing uncivil political discussions on Facebook. Computers in human behavior, 81, 73-83.