Sherry Turkle does a deep dive into the mechanics of human/machine interaction in Alone Together. She starts with the studies she did with Kismet:
Kismet is no Cleverbot, but it tries to be. Turkle observed that its expression mirroring is like half a deviation away from random, yet everyone loved talking to Kismet, had many a profound conversation with it, and found its expressions and purrs and clicks to be empathetic and compassionate, regardless of whether or not the machine was responding in real time to the subject or following a pre-recorded program.
She then dove into the time she spent with Hasbro building Baby Alive My Real Baby:
The... disconcerting discovery they made with My Real Baby is that roughly 20% of people - adults, kids, didn't matter - would spontaneously BEAT THE SHIT out of My Real Baby during unstructured play. Pick it up by the ankles and bash its head against the wall, try to gouge its eye out, etc. Turkle traced this to a "parameter mismatch" between "I am addressing a person" and "I am addressing a machine" and as soon as the subject subconsciously determined that the person they were talking to was actually a machine, they went full kill the invader on it without any conscious forethought whatsoever. The solution Turkle presented was to wire an accelerometer into the device that would power it down for fifteen seconds if tripped - in effect, turn "baby alive" as much into "lump of inert shit" as possible when its owner hit the "get the monster away from me" plateau. My Real Baby was discontinued after six months anyway because it was so deep in the Uncanny Valley that it creeped people the fuck out. She tells an anecdote about going to the product release red carpet gala and watching Hasbro execs beating the ever-loving shit out of My Real Baby on pure instinct.
Dr. Turkle then goes into her 40 years of research in online communication and points out that we only "experience" 5% of the person on the other side of the screen, with the other 95% being built up from our expectations and experiences, much like how only 5% of your vision actually has rods'n'cones pointed at it at any given time.
And boy howdy. When you see through the optical illusion.
You can make a "conscious effort" but you have to understand that the medium itself lacks the richness for anything but a sour facsimile. Also, that we try to trick ourselves into believing the facsimile. Also, that when we break through the illusion we act from the hindbrain.
Trying to make people behave better online is like trying to solve global warming through recycling - the problem is the platform.
And always has been.
If the Internet seems nastier it's only because it used to be the 20% that was online and now it's the 80%. You are more likely to bumble into untrained hoi polloi than you used to be so there's a lot more "baby's first flame war".