Workshop Proceedings of the 16th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media
Social media platforms are increasingly becoming targets of state-sponsored influence campaigns, carried out through inauthentic accounts known as troll accounts. The goal of these campaigns is often to polarize and steer online discussion towards certain strategic narratives. There has been little work, however, on understanding the effect that these influence campaigns have on online discourse, although this is key to assessing their effectiveness and devising efficient countermeasures. In this paper, we study the effect that troll accounts have on online discussions on Reddit. We look at whether these accounts are successful in generating polarized discussions, by comparing the toxicity of comments in threads started by troll accounts compared to general Reddit threads. Our results show that state-sponsored troll accounts on Reddit produce threads that attract more toxic comments than other posts on the same subreddit.