Online social media platforms use automated moderation systems to remove or reduce the visibility of rule-breaking content. While previous work has documented the importance of manual content moderation, the effects of automated content moderation remain largely unknown. Here, in a large study of Facebook comments, we used a fuzzy regression discontinuity design to measure the impact of automated content moderation on subsequent rule-breaking behavior (number of comments hidden/deleted) and engagement (number of additional comments posted).
In many online communities, community leaders (i.e., moderators and administrators) can proactively filter undesired content by requiring posts to be approved before publication. But although many communities adopt post approvals, there has been little research on its impact on community behavior. Through a longitudinal analysis of 233,402 Facebook Groups, we examined 1) the factors that led to a community adopting post approvals and 2) how the setting shaped subsequent user activity and moderation in the group.
Social comparison is a common focus in discussions of online social media use, and differences in its frequency, causes, and outcomes may arise from country or cultural differences. To understand how these differences play a role in experiences of social comparison on Facebook, a survey of 37,729 people across 18 countries was paired with respondents' activity on Facebook. The findings were augmented with 39 in-person interviews in three countries. Social comparison frequency was more strongly predicted by country than by age, gender, and Facebook activity combined, indicating that country differences are important to consider when studying social comparison. Women's and men's experiences differed greatly between countries. Exposure to high feedback counts on friends' posts was associated with more frequent social comparison, but only in some countries. Design interventions that account for such country differences may be more effective at reducing the negative outcomes of social comparison.
The trust that people feel in their social groups is linked to important social outcomes such as member satisfaction and collective task performance. To understand the behaviors and conditions linked to trust, past studies of trust in groups have typically relied on cross-sectional surveys, but these are limited in their ability to identify causation. To better test the potential causal pathways between trust and behaviors or group properties, we paired a two-wave longitudinal survey of 2358 participants in Facebook Groups with logged activity on Facebook. Using latent change score modeling, we examined how trust may predict changes in behavior or group properties and how behaviors and group properties may predict changes in trust. On one hand, people who trust a group tend to contribute more written content to the group over time; and while groups that are more trusted tend to add more administrators and moderators over time, groups that have many administrators and moderators does not tend to be trusted more over time. On the other hand, people's trust in a group increases over time when the group is well-connected and active overall, while that trust decreases over time when that person is also actively involved in multiple other groups. These findings suggest a positive feedback loop related to active engagement and trust: seeing activity in a group drives trust, which in turn leads to increased individual activity and hence greater overall activity in the group. Overall, trust may be best promoted by encouraging both active engagement and friendship formation.
People compare themselves to one another both offline and online. The specific online activities that worsen social comparison are partly understood, though much existing research relies on people recalling their own online activities post hoc and is situated in only a few countries. To better understand social comparison worldwide and the range of associated behaviors on social media, a survey of 38,000 people from 18 countries was paired with logged activity on Facebook for the prior month. People who reported more frequent social comparison spent more time on Facebook, had more friends, and saw proportionally more social content on the site. They also saw greater amounts of feedback on friends' posts and proportionally more positivity. There was no evidence that social comparison happened more with acquaintances than close friends. One in five respondents recalled recently seeing a post that made them feel worse about themselves but reported conflicting views: half wished they hadn't seen the post, while a third felt very happy for the poster. Design opportunities are discussed, including hiding feedback counts, filters for topics and people, and supporting meaningful interactions, so that when comparisons do occur, people are less affected by them.
Discourse involves two perspectives: a person's intention in making an utterance and others' perception of that utterance. The misalign- ment between these perspectives can lead to undesirable outcomes, such as misunderstandings, low productivity and even overt strife. In this work, we present a computational framework for exploring and comparing both perspectives in online public discussions. We combine logged data about public comments on Facebook with a survey of over 16,000 people about their intentions in writing these comments or about their perceptions of comments that others had written. Unlike previous studies of online discussions that have largely relied on third-party labels to quantify properties such as sentiment and subjectivity, our approach also directly captures what the speakers actually intended when writing their comments. In particular, our analysis focuses on judgments of whether a comment is stating a fact or an opinion, since these concepts were shown to be often confused. We show that intentions and perceptions diverge in consequential ways. People are more likely to perceive opinions than to intend them, and linguistic cues that signal how an utterance is intended can differ from those that signal how it will be perceived. Further, this misalignment between intentions and perceptions can be linked to the future health of a conversation: when a comment whose author intended to share a fact is misperceived as sharing an opinion, the subsequent conversation is more likely to derail into uncivil behavior than when the comment is perceived as intended. Altogether, these findings may inform the design of discussion platforms that better promote positive interactions.
Trust facilitates cooperation and supports positive outcomes in social groups, including member satisfaction, information sharing, and task performance. Extensive prior research has examined individuals' general propensity to trust, as well as the factors that contribute to their trust in specific groups. Here, we build on past work to present a comprehensive framework for predicting trust in groups. By surveying 6,383 Facebook Groups users about their trust attitudes and examining aggregated behavioral and demographic data for these individuals, we show that (1) an individual's propensity to trust is associated with how they trust their groups, (2) groups that are smaller, closed, older, more exclusive or more homogeneous are trusted more, and (3) a group's overall friendship-network structure and an individual's position within that structure further predict trust. Last, we demonstrate how group trust predicts outcomes at both individual and group level such as the formation of new friendship ties.
While many people use social network sites to connect with friends and family, some feel that their use is problematic, seriously affecting their sleep, work, or life. Pairing a survey of 20,000 Facebook users measuring perceptions of problematic use with behavioral and demographic data, we examined Facebook activities associated with problematic use as well as the kinds of people most likely to experience it. People who feel their use is problematic are more likely to be younger, male, and going through a major life event such as a breakup. They spend more time on the platform, particularly at night, and spend proportionally more time looking at profiles and less time browsing their News Feeds. They also message their friends more frequently. While they are more likely to respond to notifications, they are also more likely to deactivate their accounts, perhaps in an effort to better manage their time. Further, they are more likely to have seen content about social media or phone addiction. Notably, people reporting problematic use rate the site as more valuable to them, highlighting the complex relationship between technology use and well-being. A better understanding of problematic Facebook use can inform the design of context-appropriate and supportive tools to help people become more in control.
Large cascades can develop in online social networks as people share information with one another. Though simple reshare cascades have been studied extensively, the full range of cascading behaviors on social media is much more diverse. Here we study how diffusion protocols, or the social exchanges that enable information transmission, affect cascade growth, analogous to the way communication protocols define how information is transmitted from one point to another. Studying 98 of the largest information cascades on Facebook, we find a wide range of diffusion protocols - from cascading reshares of images, which use a simple protocol of tapping a single button for propagation, to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, whose diffusion protocol involved individuals creating and posting a video, and then nominating specific others to do the same. We find recurring classes of diffusion protocols, and identify two key counterbalancing factors in the construction of these protocols, with implications for a cascade's growth: the effort required to participate in the cascade, and the social cost of staying on the sidelines. Protocols requiring greater individual effort slow down a cascade's propagation, while those imposing a greater social cost of not participating increase the cascade's adoption likelihood. The predictability of transmission also varies with protocol. But regardless of mechanism, the cascades in our analysis all have a similar reproduction number (≈ 1.8), meaning that lower rates of exposure can be offset with higher per-exposure rates of adoption. Last, we show how a cascade's structure can not only differentiate these protocols, but also be modeled through branching processes. Together, these findings provide a framework for understanding how a wide variety of information cascades can achieve substantial adoption across a network.
In online social networks, large information cascades can develop as people share content with one another. However, as these cascades develop through complex processes, prior work has argued that their future trajectory may be inherently unpredictable. My research introduces methods for studying the mechanisms of these cascades and predicting their spread. Analyzing billions of interactions by hundreds of millions of users on Facebook, I show how the future growth and structure of these cascades can be predicted, how cascades may resurface after lying dormant for months, and how diverse social protocols can produce large information cascades. Through revealing the mechanisms in which information diffuses in social media, this work explores a future where systems can better promote sharing behavior online.
In online communities, antisocial behavior such as trolling disrupts constructive discussion. While prior work suggests that trolling behavior is confined to a vocal and antisocial minority, we demonstrate that ordinary people can engage in such behavior as well. We propose two primary trigger mechanisms: the individual's mood, and the surrounding context of a discussion (e.g., exposure to prior trolling behavior). Through an experiment simulating an online discussion, we find that both negative mood and seeing troll posts by others significantly increases the probability of a user trolling, and together double this probability. To support and extend these results, we study how these same mechanisms play out in the wild via a data-driven, longitudinal analysis of a large online news discussion community. This analysis reveals temporal mood effects, and explores long range patterns of repeated exposure to trolling. A predictive model of trolling behavior shows that mood and discussion context together can explain trolling behavior better than an individual's history of trolling. These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like trolls.
People have different intents in using online platforms. They may be trying to accomplish specific, short-term goals, or less well-defined, longer-term goals. While understanding user intent is fundamental to the design and personalization of online platforms, little is known about how intent varies across individuals, or how it relates to their behavior. Here, we develop a framework for understanding intent in terms of goal specificity and temporal range. Our methodology combines survey-based methodology with an observational analysis of user activity. Applying this framework to Pinterest, we surveyed nearly 6000 users to quantify their intent, and then studied their subsequent behavior on the web site. We find that goal specificity is bimodal - users tend to be either strongly goal-specific or goal-nonspecific. Goal-specific users search more and consume less content in greater detail than goal-nonspecific users: they spend more time using Pinterest, but are less likely to return in the near future. Users with short-term goals are also more focused and more likely to refer to past saved content than users with long-term goals, but less likely to save content for the future. Further, intent can vary by demographic, and with the topic of interest. Last, we show that user's intent and activity are intimately related by building a model that can predict a user's intent for using Pinterest after observing their activity for only two minutes. Altogether, this work shows how intent can be predicted from user behavior.
In online discussion communities, users can interact and share information and opinions on a wide variety of topics. However, some users may create multiple identities, or sockpuppets, and engage in undesired behavior by deceiving others or manipulating discussions. In this work, we study sockpuppetry across nine discussion communities, and show that sockpuppets differ from ordinary users in terms of their posting behavior, linguistic traits, as well as social network structure. Sockpuppets tend to start fewer discussions, write shorter posts, use more personal pronouns such as "I", and have more clustered ego-networks. Further, pairs of sockpuppets controlled by the same individual are more likely to interact on the same discussion at the same time than pairs of ordinary users. Our analysis suggests a taxonomy of deceptive behavior in discussion communities. Pairs of sockpuppets can vary in their deceptiveness, i.e., whether they pretend to be different users, or their supportiveness, i.e., if they support arguments of other sockpuppets controlled by the same user. We apply these findings to a series of prediction tasks, notably, to identify whether a pair of accounts belongs to the same underlying user or not. Altogether, this work presents a data-driven view of deception in online discussion communities and paves the way towards the automatic detection of sockpuppets.
Cascades of information-sharing are a primary mechanism by which content reaches its audience on social media, and an active line of research has studied how such cascades, which form as content is reshared from person to person, develop and subside. In this paper, we perform a large-scale analysis of cascades on Facebook over significantly longer time scales, and find that a more complex picture emerges, in which many large cascades recur, exhibiting multiple bursts of popularity with periods of quiescence in between. We characterize recurrence by measuring the time elapsed between bursts, their overlap and proximity in the social network, and the diversity in the demographics of individuals participating in each peak. We discover that content virality, as revealed by its initial popularity, is a main driver of recurrence, with the availability of multiple copies of that content helping to spark new bursts. Still, beyond a certain popularity of content, the rate of recurrence drops as cascades start exhausting the population of interested individuals. We reproduce these observed patterns in a simple model of content recurrence simulated on a real social network. Using only characteristics of a cascade's initial burst, we demonstrate strong performance in predicting whether it will recur in the future.
Crowdsourcing systems lack effective measures of the effort required to complete each task. Without knowing how much time workers need to execute a task well, requesters struggle to accurately structure and price their work. Objective measures of effort could better help workers identify tasks that are worth their time. We propose a data-driven effort metric, ETA (error-time area), that can be used to determine a task's fair price. It empirically models the relationship between time and error rate by manipulating the time that workers have to complete a task. ETA reports the area under the error-time curve as a continuous metric of worker effort. The curve's 10th percentile is also interpretable as the minimum time most workers require to complete the task without error, which can be used to price the task. We validate the ETA metric on ten common crowdsourcing tasks, including tagging, transcription, and search, and find that ETA closely tracks how workers would rank these tasks by effort. We also demonstrate how ETA allows requesters to rapidly iterate on task designs and measure whether the changes improve worker efficiency. Our findings can facilitate the process of designing, pricing, and allocating crowdsourcing tasks.
A large, seemingly overwhelming task can sometimes be transformed into a set of smaller, more manageable microtasks that can each be accomplished independently. In crowdsourcing systems, microtasking enables unskilled workers with limited commitment to work together to complete tasks they would not be able to do individually. We explore the costs and benefits of decomposing macrotasks into microtasks for three task categories: arithmetic, sorting, and transcription. We find that breaking these tasks into microtasks results in longer overall task completion times, but higher quality outcomes and a better experience that may be more resilient to interruptions. These results suggest that microtasks can help people complete high quality work in interruption-driven environments.
Hybrid crowd-machine learning classifiers are classification models that start with a written description of a learning goal, use the crowd to suggest predictive features and label data, and then weigh these features using machine learning to produce models that are accurate and use human-understandable features. These hybrid classifiers enable fast prototyping of machine learning models that can improve on both algorithm performance and human judgment, and accomplish tasks where automated feature extraction is not yet feasible. Flock, an interactive machine learning platform, instantiates this approach.
User contributions in the form of posts, comments, and votes are essential to the success of online communities. However, allowing user participation also invites undesirable behavior such as trolling. In this paper, we characterize antisocial behavior in three large online discussion communities by analyzing users who were banned from these communities. We find that such users tend to concentrate their efforts in a small number of threads, are more likely to post irrelevantly, and are more successful at garnering responses from other users. Studying the evolution of these users from the moment they join a community up to when they get banned, we find that not only do they write worse than other users over time, but they also become increasingly less tolerated by the community. Further, we discover that antisocial behavior is exacerbated when community feedback is overly harsh. Our analysis also reveals distinct groups of users with different levels of antisocial behavior that can change over time. We use these insights to identify antisocial users early on, a task of high practical importance to community maintainers.
Activation thresholds generalize the crowdfunding concept of calling in donations when a collective monetary goal is reached into. With activation thresholds, commitments that are conditioned on others' participation, and supporters only need to show up for an event if enough other people commit as well. Catalyst is a platform that introduces activation thresholds for on-demand events.
Ensemble is a platform for online collaborative storywriting. Motivated by the idea that individual creative leaders and the crowd have complementary creative strengths, in Ensemble, a leader directs the high-level vision for a story and articulates creative constraints for the crowd.
Social media systems rely on user feedback and rating mechanisms for personalization, ranking, and content filtering. However, when users evaluate content contributed by fellow users (e.g., by liking a post or voting on a comment), these evaluations create complex social feedback effects. We investigate how ratings on a piece of content affect its author's future behavior. By studying four large comment-based news communities, we find that negative feedback leads to significant behavioral changes that are detrimental to the community. Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more, but also their future posts are of lower quality, and are perceived by the community as such. Moreover, these authors are more likely to subsequently evaluate their fellow users negatively, percolating these effects through the community. In contrast, positive feedback does not carry similar effects, and neither encourages rewarded authors to write more, nor improves the quality of their posts. Interestingly, the authors that receive no feedback are most likely to leave a community. Furthermore, a structural analysis of the voter network reveals that evaluations polarize the community the most when positive and negative votes are equally split.
On many social networking web sites such as Facebook and Twitter, resharing or reposting functionality allows users to share others' content with their own friends or followers. As content is reshared from user to user, large cascades of reshares can form. In this work, we develop a framework for addressing cascade prediction problems. On a large sample of photo reshare cascades on Facebook, we find strong performance in predicting whether a cascade will continue to grow in the future. We find that the relative growth of a cascade becomes more predictable as we observe more of its reshares, that temporal and structural features are key predictors of cascade size, and that initially, breadth, rather than depth in a cascade is a better indicator of larger cascades. This prediction performance is robust in the sense that multiple distinct classes of features all achieve similar performance. Observing independent cascades of the same content, we find that while these cascades differ greatly in size, we are still able to predict which ends up the largest.
Storeys is a graph-based visualization tool designed for collaborative story writing that represents stories in a branching tree of individual sentences. The fine-grained, branching structure supports collaboration by reducing contribution cost, conflict over text ownership, and production blocking. Also designed to be ludic and playful, in initial evaluations Storeys was seen as a fun tool for creativity that balanced the exploration and elaboration of ideas.
We describes two diagnostic tools to predict students are at risk of dropping out from an online class. Experiments on a large, online HCI class suggest that the tools we introduce can help identify students who will not complete assignments, with an F1 score of 0.46 and 0.73 three days before the assignment due date.
We study how people use and respond to three different annotation styles: single-word tags, multi-word tags, and comments. We find significant differences in how annotation styles influence the objectivity, descriptiveness, and interestingness of annotations.
Understanding the ways in which information achieves widespread public awareness is a research question of significant interest. We consider whether, and how, the way in which the information is phrased - the choice of words and sentence structure - can affect this process.
GoSlow is an iPhone application that helps users think and reflect on their day using daily suggestions. GoSlow is designed to be reflective rather than persuasive, meaning that the application doesn't aim to modify user behavior but rather encourage introspection.
When looking at how people interact on Twitter, how can network factors help us predict which interactions are reciprocal (i.e. both parties participating), and which aren't (i.e. one user pestering another)? What factors are best in predicting reciprocity?
Have you ever wondered whether tagging could actually be...fun? How to use color (among other things) to design playful and useful tagging interfaces.