In 2015, Reddit closed several subreddits—foremost among them r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown—due to violations of Reddit’s anti-harassment policy. However, the effectiveness of banning as a moderation approach remains unclear: banning might diminish hateful behavior, or it may relocate such behavior to different parts of the site. We study the ban of r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown in terms of its effect on both participating users and affected subreddits. Working from over 100M Reddit posts and comments, we generate hate speech lexicons to examine variations in hate speech usage via causal inference methods. We find that the ban worked for Reddit. More accounts than expected discontinued using the site; those that stayed drastically decreased their hate speech usage—by at least 80%. Though many subreddits saw an influx of r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown “migrants,” those subreddits saw no significant changes in hate speech usage. In other words, other subreddits did not inherit the problem. We conclude by reflecting on the apparent success of the ban, discussing implications for online moderation, Reddit and internet communities more broadly.(Via Anil Dash)
After building online communities for two decades, we’ve learned how to fight abuse. It’s a solvable problem. We just have to stop repeating the same myths as excuses not to fix things.Here are the 8 myths Anil Dash picks out: 1. False: You can’t fix abusive behavior online. 2. False: Fighting abuse hurts free speech! 3. False: Software can detect abuse using simple rules. 4. False: Most people say “abuse” when they just mean criticism. 5. False: We just need everybody to use their “real” name. 6. False: Just charge a dollar to comment and that’ll fix things. 7. False: You can call the cops! If it’s not illegal, it’s not harmful. 8. False: Abuse can be fixed without dedicated resources.
Simon McGarr and John Looney’s slides from their SRECon ’17 presentation