Online Community Moderation Study

Past research has shown that internet users seek out anonymous or semi-anonymous online communities for support, encouragement, and empowerment or for entertainment or even employment, but that features of these communities may variably encourage or discourage harassment. The purpose of this study is to understand the use of moderation tools in pseudonymous environments online. Various websites integrate moderation tools whereby users or moderators can regulate, prevent, or punish malicious behavior. These tools may or may not be successful in addressing these behaviors, and this study aims to understand both the effects of these behaviors on users and what makes moderation (and more broadly, community management) tools useful and successful. Information gained from this study will help improve moderation tools, decreasing the frequency and severity of harassment and making the user experience more pleasant. In future projects, this information may inform the design of other moderation tools on other platforms.

Study format

In this study we will perform interviews with moderators on social media platforms including Twitch, Facebook, Twitter, and reddit. We anticipate interviewing approximately 20 users per platform. Participants will be invited to participate in an interview via Skype or other audio chat service. Audio of this call will be recorded for the purpose of transcription, but recordings will be destroyed when transcription is complete. Researchers will ask participants a series of questions about their use of the platform and interaction with its moderation tools, and will be asked to explain the types of positive and negative social behaviors they encounter and how they deal with each type. Interviews will take roughly half an hour to 45 minutes.


Interviewees will be introduced to the study through private messages on, other private messaging systems associated with the related platforms, or messages to accounts related to users' usage of these platforms. This messaging system requires and collects no personal information; the only information required to contact a person is their username. These messages will be sent from a project account. The following are the project accounts associated with this study: MMond on Twitch; jinaCMU and jseering on reddit.

Research Team

The following are researchers currently actively involved in this study:

  • Joseph Seering is the principal investigator for this study. He is a PhD student in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University studying self-governance mechanisms in online platforms. He has co-authored papers on Twitch in ACM conferences on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Designing Interactive Systems (DIS).

  • Geoff Kaufman is an Assistant Professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, and is overseeing this study and contributing analysis.

  • Seth Glickman is a game designer, developer and researcher on the Twitch Audience Participation Games project. He has experience working on and playtesting new user interfaces from web-based games to voice-controlled and AR/VR experiences, and has co-authored a paper on augmented reality user interaction design for NIME.

  • Neel Tiwary is an undergraduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University working at the intersection of business and human-computer interaction.

  • Tony Wang is a graduate student researcher at Carnegie Mellon University exploring concepts of moderation in online communities.

Of this study team, interviews will be performed by Joseph Seering, Seth Glickman, Neel Tiwary, and Tony Wang.


The consent form used in this study is here. Questions regarding this study should be directed to the Primary Investigator, jseering [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu

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