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Community Interaction and Conflict on the Web (stanford.edu)
68 points by lainon 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments

Details currently standing out -

Methodology for identifying cross sub linking and classification as Neutral vs Negative had a significantly larger number of Neutral classified links that negative.

Negative posts are done by a small minority of subs, with a pretty skewed tail.

Attacks require a high level of similarity between the attacker and defender for an attack to occur. (e.g., r/conspiracy vs. r/worldnews, or r/mensrights vs. r/againstmensrights)


Just to highlight what I consider a constant risk of any research in this area, I am considering simple ways to use this research to benefit an attacker.

In another reading of this, I should be able to figure out which subs are most suitable to fight against each other and instigate that fight.

Or to figure out how to ensure a fight wins and a sub dies out.

Figure 8 a is conducive - it suggests that attackers should ensure that they out co-ordinate and demotivate defenders, its the surest way to get them to move out of the sub and take it over.

This in turn suggests that attackers need to scour the web carefully to find innocuous sentences or interpersonal exchanges which would look terrible to an outgroup member - this will allow for more ganging up and antagonism/emotional anger to push a point and isolate the defending members.

I bet most eve online players also realize that time zones would play hugely to the attackers advantage.

Perhaps subreddits for some communities should shut down at night, or at the times known attackers are most active?


Its a nice article, And I think the focus on colonization during attackers while interesting, is likely not as interesting as the evidence of colonization during neutral linking events.

Can that be used to build a healthy meta cross linking of groups that allows for an improved flow of information between groups? Access to cross group experience and expertise ?

Incidentally this map looks like a great way to identify subs which are about to get a ban.

Hi! Thanks for your comments. I am Srijan (one of the authors of the work).

I agree with some of the risks that the paper entails, e.g., how to attack "better". But at the same time, we suggest how to diffuse those attacks as well :)

We specifically didn't name any subreddits to avoid identifying "suitable [subreddits] to fight against" (e.g., those that have been attacked a lot in the past, or have been unsuccessful in defending themselves). Same for the most (successfully) attacking subreddits. It would just encourage them.

Re colonization during neutral events: we see in Figure 7 that neutral events lead to "immigration" instead of colonization, i.e., there is no decrease in activity of the existing members, while there an increase for the "attacking" members. It would be interesting to see how productive these neutral exchanges are in the future.

Re using the map to identify bans: we haven't looked into that, but it sounds interesting!

Indeed it is interesting question of how to encourage and improve coordination and good information flow between groups. It is an open research area on how that can happen!

Hey nice report, how long did it take you'll?

I don't think your research suggests a reasonable defense for human communities, once you overlay your defense strategy over ground reality.

As the other user suggested, using sock puppets creates a force multiplier for attackers. In theory it can be used by defenders, but that suggests a level of sophistication on the defenders part that is many statistical deviations from the mean for normal people.

For attackers sock puppets won't be an unusual tool to be aware of.

But - A dedicated attacker is always going to be defeating defenders anyway.


I suspect that the work going on during neutral interactions is far more valuable to Reddit as a whole, and you should be looking into that a lot more.

It may well help with making more cross talk (but in true depressing fashion - increase the echo chamber effect).

I wonder which subs have dissimilar features and yet have successful neutral colonization ? Perhaps that's a healthier feature to examine and deal with polarization ?

From reading your comment it seems like you could also create sockpuppet that is part of a target community and then instigate a fight between two different communities (a target and also one that opposes a target) that you want to eliminate?

We haven't looked into how sockpuppetry is done alongside attacks, but I presume that it would happen at a smaller scale.

BTW here's our previous research on sockpuppets that you may find interesting: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2127107-sock-puppet-acc...

Actually now that you mention sock puppets I guess with this research it pretty much shows you how many sock puppets vs humans you need to take over a sub,

As long as you out compete the defenders, it's done.

A bunch of scientists in 2014 discovers that there are flame wars on the Internet. Where were they in 1993? They are only 21 years late to the party.

Something being apparent (in a certain demographic) does not in any sense reduce the validity of scientific research in this area. There have been great papers on topics like these in the past, some of them even award-winning and read-worthy.


Read-worthy for anyone who was a bit high like me and did a double take (sorry if this is against etiquette, I don’t have anything substantial to add to what you said)

Oops, not sure what went on in my head there. Corrected!

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