13 votes

A Simple Way to Reduce Harassment in Online Discussion Groups

13 comments

  1. [11]
    Cosmos Link
    This doesn't match my experience. From what I've seen, prominently displaying rules has the opposite effect of increasing compliance. It just tells all the angsty children how to stick it to the...

    This doesn't match my experience. From what I've seen, prominently displaying rules has the opposite effect of increasing compliance. It just tells all the angsty children how to stick it to the man instead.

    The people who harass others on the internet don't care what others tell them is acceptable behavior. They will do the opposite of whatever you say, because that's how they feel powerful.

    The only example this article cites is /r/science, which I'd guess has far fewer angsty children than the rest of reddit. Not a good place to start.

    9 votes
    1. [9]
      chas Link Parent
      Yep, it's still a doomed approach because it leaves the door open for endless accusations that the mods are enforcing the rules arbitrarily. The effective approach is probably to position...

      Yep, it's still a doomed approach because it leaves the door open for endless accusations that the mods are enforcing the rules arbitrarily.

      The effective approach is probably to position moderation like "We moderate [sitename] as we see fit. We reserve the right to ban any user, for any reason. Generally we ban users we think fail to make a positive contribution, but we may ban you for absolutely any reason, or no reason at all, at any time. Don't bother complaining about our decisions, we never promised they would be fair. We have zero tolerance for nonsense."

      7 votes
      1. [4]
        Gaywallet Link Parent
        Your comment and @Cosmos 's comment are a pet peeve of mine. You're absolutely welcome to your own opinion and you're certainly welcome to criticize the study that was conducted, but it feels like...

        Your comment and @Cosmos 's comment are a pet peeve of mine. You're absolutely welcome to your own opinion and you're certainly welcome to criticize the study that was conducted, but it feels like what's being stated here is more presented as 'fact' from your own experiences.

        But a study was conducted here. Someone spent the time to contribute objective data to help move the field forward in understanding human behavior. To sit here and discredit it (without offering any solution or criticism) based on your own experiences accomplishes very little but convince others who already hold your view that they are correct in spite of the evidence.

        If your intent is to drive discussion towards very valid concerns, such as whether this increases or decreases the moderators workload, or whether this will hold valid on other subs or other websites, then please raise those concerns instead of dismissing the study.

        6 votes
        1. chas Link Parent
          That's a fair criticism. To clarify, I'm no expert, and my impression isn't based on hard data, just anecdotal evidence. If I made it sound otherwise, I got carried away. I think here, you worded...

          it feels like what's being stated here is more presented as 'fact' from your own experiences.

          That's a fair criticism. To clarify, I'm no expert, and my impression isn't based on hard data, just anecdotal evidence. If I made it sound otherwise, I got carried away.

          To sit here and discredit it (without offering any solution or criticism) based on your own experiences

          I think here, you worded it too strongly. I did make a proposal in my comment. It's okay if you disagree with it.

          please raise those concerns instead of dismissing the study.

          For what it's worth, I intended my "dismissal" to mean "this alone won't solve the problem."

          I think the fairest criticism of my comment is that I shoehorned my own concerns into this thread. Cheers.

          3 votes
        2. Octofox Link Parent
          This "study" goes against what most internet moderators know from real life experience. I have been moderating internet communities for years and every one where I had an actual list of rules just...

          This "study" goes against what most internet moderators know from real life experience. I have been moderating internet communities for years and every one where I had an actual list of rules just ended up with me wasting time arguing with people telling me how technically they never violated the rules if you take them exactly how they are written.

          The communities I run which have no written rules have gone much smoother because any problem users have been removed. I don't have to wait until they have made a clear violation of the rules or start writing new rules to remove someone. As a human I simply know which users are making the group unpleasant to be in. Unpleasant users tend to be the hardest ones to remove from a group with rules because you can never quite put your finger on what they have done wrong other than just bring down the mood of the group and make you not want to be there.

          Once "I just don't want you here" is a valid ban reason the quality of your community goes way up. Never feel like you owe people the right to be in your group, you created it and you are free to choose who gets to stay. If people don't like it they are free to create their own.

          3 votes
        3. Cosmos Link Parent
          I did critique the study. It looks like it was only looking at /r/science, which is not at all representative of the site as a whole. I don't know how you can form any broad conclusions by only...

          I did critique the study. It looks like it was only looking at /r/science, which is not at all representative of the site as a whole. I don't know how you can form any broad conclusions by only looking at that sub.

          2 votes
      2. [3]
        Nitta Link Parent
        I understand this from the point of view of those who are running the discussion platform, and it's clear that civil comments are unlikely to be removed, but man does this sound cold and...

        We reserve the right to ban any user, for any reason. Generally we ban users we think fail to make a positive contribution, but we may ban you for absolutely any reason, or no reason at all, at any time. Don't bother complaining about our decisions, we never promised they would be fair. We have zero tolerance for nonsense

        I understand this from the point of view of those who are running the discussion platform, and it's clear that civil comments are unlikely to be removed, but man does this sound cold and uninviting.

        I imagine a good AI will be able to show a badge if the comment is gonna be allowed or removed (why), while user is writing it.

        4 votes
        1. chas (edited ) Link Parent
          I'm generally an advocate of customer focus ("user focus" is more apt in this case) in business. Customer focus includes setting a welcoming tone. However, when we talk about countering trolls, I...

          I'm generally an advocate of customer focus ("user focus" is more apt in this case) in business. Customer focus includes setting a welcoming tone. However, when we talk about countering trolls, I think what constitutes a "welcoming tone" changes. There is a sizable ratio of users, especially today, who respond positively, the more negative is a company's response to trolls.

          I have an example from this week. I notice Reddit users are complaining about a user with "1488" in his username, who has been creating dozens of neo-nazi posts. Reddit deals with each of his posts on a case-by-case basis. In a sense, Reddit, by giving the benefit of the doubt to this bigot, is being kind and welcoming. That "kindness" rubs many users the wrong way. A harsher attitude from Reddit toward this type of propaganda would set a more welcoming tone for the site overall.

          Users who are sick of online hatred are starved for examples of social media companies who are proactive about countering it. I doubt such users would feel like the target of the harsh wording in my original comment.

          5 votes
        2. Octofox Link Parent
          Not having a rules list is actually more natural and humane. If you join a group of friends and you start acting like an ass you aren't going to have someone pull out a book and say "On page 42 it...

          Not having a rules list is actually more natural and humane. If you join a group of friends and you start acting like an ass you aren't going to have someone pull out a book and say "On page 42 it says that your joke was insensitive and mean therefore you must leave the group for 4 days". They will instead silently stop inviting you around if you are unpleasant.

          1 vote
      3. Atvelonis (edited ) Link Parent
        Those approaches aren't mutually exclusive, though. In fact, I would suggest that prominently displaying the rules goes hand-in-hand with being very tough about enforcing them. I agree with...

        Those approaches aren't mutually exclusive, though. In fact, I would suggest that prominently displaying the rules goes hand-in-hand with being very tough about enforcing them.

        I agree with @Cosmos that being a sticker about the rules inevitably causes a certain amount of backlash against the moderators on any forum. I've dealt with this quite a bit myself. But the moderators are the ones who hold the power; call me authoritarian, but on a website with consistent enough traffic (like Reddit, or in my case Wikia), it is literally impossible for users to have any long-term effect on the tone of the site if the moderators are more proactive about rule enforcement than users are about rule-breaking.

        Mods can ban people. Users can ban no one. Mods can delete posts and comments. Users cannot. Mods have all of the power and users have none of it, at least beyond sheer numbers, an advantage which can be offset by getting more mods and making use of automated moderation techniques. Accusations about arbitrary rule enforcement don't actually change traffic in a significant way; /r/politics (for example) is still an incredibly popular sub, despite constantly being accused of bias from various perspectives. Most people don't ever read these accusations, even if they make it to the press, or just don't care.

        People can whine all they like, but if the moderators want to enforce a specific point of view on a community (e.g. "no harassment"), they can definitely do it, and there's very little that can be done to stop them.

        3 votes
    2. nacho Link Parent
      It works well other places too, so long as the mods have automoderator set up to automatically remove every response to the rules comment. Otherwise it becomes just a meta-nonsense placeholder at...

      It works well other places too, so long as the mods have automoderator set up to automatically remove every response to the rules comment.

      Otherwise it becomes just a meta-nonsense placeholder at the top of every single thread for those who're angry and invested in meta-issues of that subreddit to bellyache.

      3 votes
  2. teaearlgraycold Link
    I think the ideal solution is what Tildes plans to do. Have the users get semi-automatically promoted to different levels of moderators as they prove themselves to be aligned with the site's...

    I think the ideal solution is what Tildes plans to do. Have the users get semi-automatically promoted to different levels of moderators as they prove themselves to be aligned with the site's goals.

    The article mentions that human psychology tends to have people conform to norms they see others participating in. If nearly every commentor is playing the role of part time moderator then there will be constant pressure from newcomers to conform or leave.

    When you see something on here that you think doesn't belong you should speak up. Even without any power to remove the post yourself.

    2 votes
  3. KapteinB Link
    Percent or percentage points? If it's percent, then first-time commenters became 56.9 percent (52.5 * 1.084) compliant. If it's percentage points, then first-time commenters became 60.9 percent...

    Matias designed a message that ran at the top of each discussion between August 25th and September 23rd, 2016. It simply read: "Welcome to r/science. Comments will be removed if they are jokes, memes, abusive, off-topic, or medical advice (rules). Our 1,200 moderators encourage respectful discussion."

    "Without posting the rules, a first-time commenter ... has a 52.5 percent chance of complying with community norms," he writes. "Posting the rules causes an 8.4 percent increase in the chance that a newcomer's comment will be allowed to remain by moderators."

    Percent or percentage points? If it's percent, then first-time commenters became 56.9 percent (52.5 * 1.084) compliant. If it's percentage points, then first-time commenters became 60.9 percent (52.5 + 8.4) compliant.

    And how much of that came from reduced harassment? I think it's more likely there was a big reduction in jokes and memes.

    1 vote