Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica has a write-up on a new report by Jigsaw (an arm of Alphabet) and Wikipedia, which seeks to identify the sources of online abuse in Wikipedia comments:
The researchers unleashed their algorithm on Wikipedia comments made during 2015, constantly checking results for accuracy. Almost immediately, they found that they could debunk the time-worn idea that anonymity* leads to abuse. Although anonymous comments are “six times more likely to be an attack,” they represent less than half of all attacks on Wikipedia. “Similarly, less than half of attacks come from users with little prior participation,” the researchers write in their paper. “Perhaps surprisingly, approximately 30% of attacks come from registered users with over a 100 contributions.” In other words, a third of all personal attacks come from regular Wikipedia editors who contribute several edits per month. Personal attacks seem to be baked into Wikipedia culture.
The researchers also found that an outsized percentage of attacks come from a very small number of “highly toxic” Wikipedia contributors. A whopping 9% of attacks in 2015 came from just 34 users who had made 20 or more personal attacks during the year. “Significant progress could be made by moderating a relatively small number of frequent attackers,” the researchers note. This finding bolsters the idea that problems in online communities often come from a small minority of highly vocal users.
This data reinforces something many of us already suspected: The harshest trolls aren’t necessarily more numerous — they’re just louder than everyone else.