Thread With Caution: Proactively Helping Users Assess and Deescalate Tension in Their Online Discussions

Jonathan P. Chang and Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil

Proceedings of CSCW 2022.


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Related research:         

                                    Proactive Moderation


                                    Anti-Social Computing


                                    Conversational Behavior


ABSTRACT:

                                   

Incivility remains a major challenge for online discussion platforms, to such an extent that even conversations between well-intentioned users can often derail into uncivil behavior. Traditionally, platforms have relied on moderators to---with or without algorithmic assistance---take corrective actions such as removing comments or banning users. In this work we propose a complementary paradigm that directly empowers users by proactively enhancing their awareness about existing tension in the conversation they are engaging in and actively guides them as they are drafting their replies to avoid further escalation.

As a proof of concept for this paradigm, we design an algorithmic tool that provides such proactive information directly to users, and conduct a user study in a popular discussion platform. Through a mixed methods approach combining surveys with a randomized controlled experiment, we uncover qualitative and quantitative insights regarding how the participants utilize and react to this information. Most participants report finding this proactive paradigm valuable, noting that it helps them to identify tension that they may have otherwise missed and prompts them to further reflect on their own replies and to revise them. These effects are corroborated by a comparison of how the participants draft their reply when our tool warns them that their conversation is at risk of derailing into uncivil behavior versus in a control condition where the tool is disabled. These preliminary findings highlight the potential of this user-centered paradigm and point to concrete directions for future implementations.




BibTeX ENTRY:

                                

@InProceedings{Chang-Thread:22,

  author={Jonathan P. Chang, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil},

  title={Thread With Caution: Proactively Helping Users Assess and Deescalate Tension in Their Online Discussions},

  booktitle={Proceedings of CSCW},

  year={2022}

}