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AppealMod: Shifting Effort from Moderators to Users Making Appeals

by   Shubham Atreja, et al.
University of Michigan

As content moderation becomes a central aspect of all social media platforms and online communities, interest has grown in how to make moderation decisions contestable. On social media platforms where individual communities moderate their own activities, the responsibility to address user appeals falls on volunteers from within the community. While there is a growing body of work devoted to understanding and supporting the volunteer moderators' workload, little is known about their practice of handling user appeals. Through a collaborative and iterative design process with Reddit moderators, we found that moderators spend considerable effort in investigating user ban appeals and desired to directly engage with users and retain their agency over each decision. To fulfill their needs, we designed and built AppealMod, a system that asks users to put more effort in their appeals, by providing additional information, before their appeals are reviewed by human moderators. In addition to giving moderators more information, we expected the friction in the appeal process would lead to a selection effect among users, with many insincere and toxic appeals being abandoned before getting any attention from human moderators. To evaluate our system, we conducted a field experiment in a Reddit community of over 29 million users that lasted for four months. As a result of the selection effect, moderators viewed only 30% of initial appeals and less than 10% of the toxically worded appeals; yet they granted roughly the same number of appeals. Overall, our system is effective at reducing moderator workload and minimizing their exposure to toxic content while honoring their preference for direct engagement and agency in appeals.


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