Marginalized communities online often face disruption from outsiders trying to cause trouble. These communities are targets for coordinated harassment on platforms where anyone can join nearly any discussion and search algorithms enable organized groups to find and disrupt conversations.
Many communities take this risk because the same features also provide pathways to connection for people who are just starting to explore their common identity and values. But witnessing harassment can have what scholars call a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression for bystanders who worry they will be attacked as well.
In a study with the /r/feminism community on Reddit, the CAT Lab team, in collaboration with a team of Princeton students, designed a two-year field experiment to test ideas for reducing this chilling effect on freedom of expression in marginalized groups online.
Documents and timeline:
- January 2018: Community research summit: Gathering the Custodians of the Internet
- April 2018: Community discussion on r/feminism about the study
- June 2018: Pre-registered experiment plan
- June 2020: Full analysis code on github
- June 2020: Community report—Study Results: Reducing the Silencing Role of Harassment in Online Feminism Discussions