Researchers from the University of Glasgow reported their findings in a new study published in the Computers in Human Behaviour journal.
They found that celebrities and famous individuals are considered more "attractive," which, compared to ordinary people, elicits a more protective response from others when they experience abuse online. The public perception of increased attractiveness meant that any abuse they received was perceived as more socially unacceptable. The researchers suggest this "protective 'halo'" bestowed upon celebrities online is due to the "'what is beautiful is good' phenomenon."
The study highlights key points such as celebrities being victim-blamed less often than a layperson in instances of cyber abuse, incidents involving celebrity targets were considered more severe than layperson targets, and celebrities are seen as more socially, physically, and task-attractive than laypersons. The researchers found victim attractiveness and status predicted victim-blaming and perceptions of severity.
"Our research found that celebrities appear to be held in higher regard and considered more attractive than other social media users, affording them protection when abused online. Our studies were very carefully controlled. The only things that varied were the names and profile pictures of the victims. This 'celebrity' status was enough to dramatically shift viewer perceptions of blame and severity," said Dr. Christopher Hand, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, at the University of Glasgow, the report's co-author.
You can read more from the study here.