One of Many: Assessing User-level Effects of Moderation Interventions on r/The_Donald

Amaury Trujillo, Stefano Cresci

Evaluating the effects of moderation interventions is a task of paramount importance, as it allows assessing the success of content moderation processes. So far, intervention effects have been almost solely evaluated at the aggregated platform or community levels. Here, we carry out a multidimensional evaluation of the user level effects of the sequence of moderation interventions that targeted r/The_Donald: a community of Donald Trump adherents on Reddit. We demonstrate that the interventions (i) strongly reduced user activity, (ii) slightly increased the diversity of the subreddits in which users participated, (iii) slightly reduced user toxicity, and (iv) led users to share less factual and more politically biased news. Importantly, we also find that interventions having strong community level effects also cause extreme and diversified user level reactions. Our results highlight that platform and community level effects are not always representative of the underlying behavior of individuals or smaller user groups. We conclude by discussing the practical and ethical implications of our results. Overall, our findings can inform the development of targeted moderation interventions and provide useful guidance for policing online platforms.

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