Personal Attacks Decrease User Activity in Social Networking Platforms

Rafal Urbaniak, Michal Ptaszynski, Patrycja Tempska, Gniewosz Leliwa, Maciej Brochocki, Michal Wroczynski

Computers in Human Behavior


We conducted a large-scale data-driven analysis of the effects of online personal attacks on social media user activity. First, we perform a thorough overview of the literature on the influence of social media on user behavior, especially on the impact that negative and aggressive behaviors, such as harassment and cyberbullying, have on users' engagement in online media platforms. The majority of previous research were small-scale self-reported studies, which is their limitation. This motivated our data-driven study. We performed a large-scale analysis of messages from Reddit, a discussion website, for a period of two weeks, involving 182,528 posts or comments to posts by 148,317 users. To efficiently collect and analyze the data we applied a high-precision personal attack detection technology. We analyzed the data obtained from three perspectives: (i) classical statistical methods, (ii) Bayesian estimation, and (iii) model-theoretic analysis.

The three perspectives agree: personal attacks decrease the victims’ activity. The results can be interpreted as an important signal to social media platforms and policymakers that leaving personal attacks unmoderated is quite likely to disengage the users and in effect depopulate the platform. On the other hand, application of cyberviolence detection technology in combination with various mitigation techniques could improve and strengthen the user community. As more of our lives is taking place online, keeping the virtual space inclusive for all users becomes an important problem which online media platforms need to face.