Workshop Proceedings of the 16th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media

DOI: 10.36190/2022.52

Published: 2022-06-01
The Polarizing Impact of Continuous Presence on Users' Behavior
Wienke Strathern, Angelina Mooseder and Jürgen Pfeffer

Online political communities offer spaces where people share and exchange political views, content, and ideas. However, people seeking political exchange online are increasingly confronted with an exclusionary intensification of discussion that no longer makes it possible to participate in constructive discourse. Online political discussion forums like r/The Donald and r/ChapoTrapHouse on Reddit have been banned recently due to the proliferation of hate speech and anti-social behavior of users. Homogeneous online discussion communities have been shown to play a key role in political polarization. Spending time in these communities tends to foster strong political positions associated with conflict. In this study we analyzed social media data from online political communities on Reddit and asked: how does presence in polarizing environments influence users' behavior? With initially equal user activity, what happens if one group of users continues to be present while the other is not? Our analysis shows that continuously present users become more active, use simpler vocabulary, and employ more abusive words in their text contributions. Our results have implications for automated moderation of polarizing online communities.