Moderators: Join us at MIT To Create a Fairer, Safer, More Understanding Internet

Apply by Dec 15 for our Jan 27-28 summit, which brings communities together to develop research on moderation and community online

by J. Nathan Matias, Dec 7, 2017

Citizen Scientists at the Cabrillo National Monument intertidal zone during the park's recent 24-hour Centennial BioBlitz. NPS photo.

Over 150 citizen scientists at the Cabrillo National Monument document biodiversity during the park's Centennial BioBlitz. CivilServant develops citizen behavioral science for the internet.

Are you a reddit moderator whose community wants to try new moderation ideas? Are you interested in testing the effects of those ideas with your communities? CivilServant is holding our first Community Research Summit on Jan 27-28 at the MIT Media Lab in Boston, and we want you to be there!

We can cover the costs of several North America-based moderators to travel to the summit. If you're interested, please apply by December 15th.

reddit Moderators: Apply by Dec 15

Over the last year and a half, CivilServant has worked with communities of tens of millions of people to discover ideas that create a fairer, safer, more understanding internet. We've tested the effectiveness of community ideas for preventing harassment and demonstrated the influence of community fact-checking on the spread of unreliable sources by reddit's algorithms. We're currently finishing a study that tests ideas for reducing partisan conflict and have upcoming research testing peer responses to harassment and limiting the damage from AI-based copyright enforcement.

We're creating the citizen behavioral science of the internet

At CivilServant, we're creating the citizen behavioral science of the internet. We rely on people on reddit, Twitter, and other platforms to explain your best ideas for a better internet and invite us into your communities to help you test the impact of those ideas.

If you and your community have moderation strategies you want to test, we want you at the summit. We've set aside a whole day for community moderators to brainstorm and plan new ideas with our researchers. By the end of the day, we hope to create a list of research ideas and proposals that moderators can take back to your communities and that our team can start working on. Topics we already plan to cover include:

  • strategies for managing large influxes of commenters
  • alternatives to permanent banning, that might also reduce recidivism rates
  • the human impact of machine learning moderation
  • AI-directed mentorship for newcomers in creative communities
  • the effects of downvotes on community conflict

About CivilServant

CivilServant started out as J. Nathan Matias's PhD dissertation project at the MIT Media Lab. Now that Nathan is a postdoc at Princeton University, and with funding from the Ethics and Governance of AI Fund, the MIT Media Lab, and the Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Policy at Princeton, CivilServant has hired its first staff and will be growing our work to support citizen behavioral science for fairer, safer, more understanding internet. The summit will help us develop a vision for the future and set our research plans as we aim to support dozens of new studies in 2018.

About the Community Research Summit

At the CivilServant Community Research Summit in Boston at at the MIT Media Lab (Jan 27-28), you'll meet moderators of online communities and other inspiring people who work to protect and grow the social internet. You will also meet researchers and advocates who are leading a growing movement to develop public-interest research independently of the powerful companies that shape today's social world.

The summit runs from 1pm on Saturday through 4pm on Sunday so you can fly in on Saturday morning and depart on Sunday if needed. We are looking into a play area for children, so let us know if that would help.

Our opening speakers will be:

We will also feature project highlights from:

  • Nathan Allen and Piper Below, moderators of r/science on reddit
  • Mason English, moderator of r/politics on reddit
  • Merry Mou, civic tech designer, software engineer, and co-creator of the CivilServant software
  • Ellery Biddle, director of Advocacy at Global Voices and co-editor of an international analysis of Facebook's Free Basics across six countries
  • Aaron Halfaker, Principal Research Scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation and creator of Snuggle, a system that replaces content removals with mentorship
  • T.L. Taylor, a professor at MIT and director of research at AnyKey, which works for fair and inclusive spaces in gaming
  • Christo Wilson, who leads the Auditing Algorithms group at Northeastern University
  • Jonathan Zong, who's designing ethics procedures for citizen behavioral science
  • (expect this list to grow)

The summit has been generously funded by the Ethics and Governance of AI Fund, the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Thanks!