Institute for Web Science and Technologies · Universität Koblenz - Landau
Institute WeST

Suggesting Civility Norms for Online Communities with Implications for e-Democracy

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Open Master Thesis - Contact a supervisor for more details!

Context: In social theory, norms are expectations of behavior that emerge from repeated interactions within communities. On discussion boards, heated discussions are often unavoidable, and even vital and necessary for political topics. In this sense, politeness and impoliteness, civility and incivility are all required for lively and democratic discussion, as long as no outright hate speech arises. A prominent example of such discussions is Reddit, which contains vast numbers of heterogeneous communities (subreddits), focusing on very diverse topics. 

Aim: This thesis aims to measure the norms from subreddit data (6) for several cases of online communities, then to propose policies as a moderator would do on the basis on this analysis.  

Method: We define topics as subreddits, and norms as linguistic features that can be attributed to various social roles that are held across the users (3, 4, 5). 

The student i) reviews literature on e-Rulemaking (2), ii) implements a method for classifying linguistic norms for social roles across subreddits, iii) then argues how this method can help to create policies of regulation for platforms and, further, legal directives for digital politics (1).      


  1. Papacharissi, Zizi. "Democracy online: Civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups." New media & society 6.2 (2004): 259-283.

  2. Schlosberg, David, Stephen Zavestoski, and Stuart W. Shulman. "Democracy and e-rulemaking: Web-based technologies, participation, and the potential for deliberation." Journal of Information Technology & Politics 4.1 (2008): 37-55.

  3. Gleave, Eric, et al. "A conceptual and operational definition of 'social role' in online community." 2009 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. IEEE, 2009.

  4. Welser, Howard T., et al. "Finding social roles in Wikipedia." Proceedings of the 2011 iConference. ACM, 2011.

  5. Choi, Sujin. "Flow, diversity, form, and influence of political talk in social-media-based public forums." Human Communication Research 40.2 (2014): 209-237.

  6. (reddit comments data)


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