Women who make hateful remarks on social media are likely to be judged more severely than men who make the same comments, a new study has found.

The findings, published in the journal Sex Roles, also suggested that the reactions to hate speech made by women were less accepted than counter speech from men.

“These findings support the idea that women are more concerned about fairness and avoiding harm to others than men,” said co-author Claudia Wilhelm from the University of Erfurt in Germany.

“In the specific case of comments directed against women and sexual minorities, hate comments by female authors are perceived as an act of double deviance and are therefore sanctioned more strictly than such hate comments by men,” Wilhelm added.

For the study, the research team conducted an online survey that involved 457 participants (51 per cent female) through political interest groups and a German news magazine site on Facebook.

If a person using social media thinks that a comment made by somebody else is inappropriate or offensive, they may report or “flag” it to the platform provider.

The participants read through online comments directed against women and sexual minorities, and indicated whether they would flag these comments as inappropriate.

Another group of participants evaluated the reactions that followed hate comments. Some of the comments were presented as being made by men, while others were said to have been written by women.

The researchers did not find a direct effect of gender on the flagging of hate comments but the results showed that women are morally more concerned about fairness than men.

They also found that women also invest greater efforts to avoid harm to others which increases the likeliness that they flag hate comments.

The researchers warns that moderators of online discussions and platform providers should be sensitive to the way in which gender influences online discussions and the likelihood of these comments being flagged.