One in every ten Reddit users publish toxic posts, researchers suggest

Reserchers analysed over 87 million posts to find new ways of stopping toxicity spreading online

Adam Smith
Thursday 18 August 2022 17:48 BST
(AFP via Getty Images)
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Research suggests that over one in every ten Reddit users publish toxic posts, and a similar number publish toxic comments, according to new analysis of the social network.

Researchers analysed over two billion posts and comments from across Redditors - over 87 million posts and 2.205 billion comments made by more than 1.2 million unique users – and found that 16.11% of users publish toxic posts, and 13.28% of users publish toxic comments.

Of these users, 30.68% of users publishing posts and 81.67% of users publishing comments adapted how toxic they were across different subreddits, suggesting that users are actively adapting their behavior to the communities’ norms.

These researchers believe that toxicity on the social network can therefore be stopped by limiting the subreddits users can participate in.

“One challenge with studying online toxicity is the multitude of forms it takes, including hate speech, harassment, and cyberbullying. Toxic content often contains insults, threats, and offensive language, which, in turn, contaminate online platforms”, the authors, Hind Almerekhi, Dr Haewoon Kwak, Professor Bernard J. Jansen said in a statement.

“Several online platforms have implemented prevention mechanisms, but these efforts are not scalable enough to curtail the rapid growth of toxic content on online platforms. These challenges call for developing effective automatic or semiautomatic solutions to detect toxicity from a large stream of content on online platforms

“Monitoring the change in users’ toxicity can be an early detection method for toxicity in online communities. The proposed methodology can identify when users exhibit a change by calculating the toxicity percentage in posts and comments. This change, combined with the toxicity level our system detects in users’ posts, can be used efficiently to stop toxicity dissemination.”

In a statement, Reddit said: “Keeping Reddit safe, healthy, and real is one of our top priorities. We regularly assess our platform to understand the health of our communities, foster safe interactions, and remove policy-violating content. We share the results of this research directly with our community on r/redditsecurity.

“The study in question confirms our own research and insights: that the vast majority of content on Reddit is healthy, and users tend to positively adjust their behavior in accordance with community norms. Where the study is flawed is that it draws from data that is up to nearly 20 years old, and therefore does not take into account impacts from our numerous policy updates and subsequent enforcement actions.

“We intentionally make Reddit’s data available to researchers through our open API, and value the insights of external parties as we apply and evolve our own machine learning capabilities. We will continue to work to enhance our capabilities and processes so that we can best ensure the health and safety of our platform.”

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