Celebrity abuse on Twitter: the impact of tweet valence, volume of abuse, and dark triad personality factors on victim blaming and perceptions of severity

Graham G. Scott*, Zara P. Brodie, Megan J. Wilson, Lucy Ivory, Christopher J. Hand, Sara C. Sereno

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Celebrities are increasingly utilizing social media platforms to establish their brand and interact with their fan base, but in doing so they often become the targets of online abuse. While such abusive acts are known to cause severe consequences in the general population little is known about how celebrity abuse is perceived by observers. This study investigated observers’ impressions of the severity of online abuse on Twitter, the blame attributed to celebrities for the abuse they received, and the role of the dark triad of observers’ personality factors (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) in these decisions. We manipulated celebrity tweet content (negative, neutral, positive) and the volume of abusive comments (high, low) the tweets received. Celebrities received more blame the more negative their initial tweet was, and incidents were perceived as least severe following a negative tweet with a high volume of abuse. Observer impressions were influenced by their dark triad personality factors. Following negative tweets, as observer narcissism increased, victim blame increased and perceived severity decreased. Following positive tweets, as observer psychopathy increased, perceived severity decreased. Results are discussed in the context of the Warranting Theory of online impression formation and the ramifications for celebrity social media use is explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-119
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date24 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2020



  • Twitter
  • Cyberbullying
  • Dark triad
  • Warranting theory
  • Victim blame

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