About CivilServant

The CivilServant project supports online communities to run their own experiments on the effects of moderation practices. With the CivilServant software, communities on the internet can run your own experiments and grow collective knowledge on what works to maintain flourishing and fair conversations online.

CivilServant is part of dissertation research by J. Nathan Matias, a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab and MIT Center for Civic Media. Experiments conducted by CivilServant are designed by and with subreddits, following pre-approved procedures for research ethics. The research for this PhD was approved by the MIT Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects. If you have any questions about this research, please contact J. Nathan Matias on reddit or via email.

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Test Your Moderation Ideas With CivilServant

In time, we hope that any community will be able to create an account with CivilServant and set up an experiment on your own. For now, if your subreddit is interested to test your moderation ideas, please contact /u/natematias on reddit or send us an email.

To stay informed about CivilServant and receive updates on experiment results, please sign up for email updates.

About the Researchers


J. Nathan Matias (@natematias) is a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab and MIT Center for Civic Media (with Ethan Zuckerman) and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Nathan has collaborated with a wide range of social media companies, news organizations, and advocates to study gender discrimination, harassment, and social movements online.

Merry Mou is a masters student working in the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative on computer networks. Merry is interested in studying and developing tools for internet governance and equality.

Resources On Moderation and Online Harassment


CivilServant has been designed to fill out public knowledge on the effects of moderation practices. Although causal knowledge on moderation and harassment is limited, practitioners and academics have been looking at these issues fro over forty years. If you are facing online harassment or want to learn more about the state of academic knowledge on the issues, here are some resources:

Matias, J. N., Benesch, S., Earley, P., Gillespie, T., Keegan, B., Levy, N., & Maher, E. (2015). Online Harassment Resource Guide. Wikimedia Meta-Wiki: Research.

/r/modhelp is a reddit community for moderators to share tips. They offer links to in-depth resources on many issues faced by subreddit moderators.

The FemTechNet Center for Solutions to Online Violence keeps a list of advice and resources.

Friedman, J., Sarkeesian, A., Sherman, R. B. (2016). Speak Up & Stay Safe(r): A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment. Feminist Frequency.

HeartMob is a peer support platform for people who are being harassed online.

Crash Override offers resources and private assistance for people experiencing online abuse.

Matias, J. N. et al. (2016). High Impact Questions and Opportunities for Online Harassment Research and Action. Produced by a group of 35 researchers, advocates, and platform representatives at an MIT workshop.

AnyKey is an advocacy organization dedicated to supporting diverse participation in esports.