Linguistic Characterization of Divisive Topics Online: Case Studies on Contentiousness in Abortion, Climate Change, and Gun Control

Authors

  • Jacob Beel Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Tong Xiang Georgetown University
  • Sandeep Soni Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Diyi Yang Georgia Institute of Technology

Keywords:

Subjectivity in textual data; sentiment analysis; polarity/opinion identification and extraction, linguistic analyses of social media behavior, Text categorization; topic recognition; demographic/gender/age identification, Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media

Abstract

As public discourse continues to move and grow online, conversations about divisive topics on social media plat-forms have also increased. These divisive topics prompt both contentious and non-contentious conversations. Although what distinguishes these conversations, often framed as what makes these conversations contentious, is known in broad strokes, much less is known about the linguistic signature of these conversations. Prior work has shown that contentious content and structure can be a predictor for this task, however,most of them have been focused on conversation in general,very specific events, or complex structural analysis. Additionally, many models used in prior work have lacked interpretability, a key factor in online moderation. Our work fills these gaps by focusing on conversations from highly divisive topics (abortion, climate change, and gun control), operationalizing a set of novel linguistic and conversational characteristics and user factors, and incorporating them to build interpretable models. We demonstrate that such characteristics can largely improve the performance of prediction on this task, and also enable nuanced interpretability. Our case studies on these three contentious topics suggest that certain generic linguistic characteristics are highly correlated with contentiousness in conversations while others demonstrate significant contextual influences on specific divisive topics.

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Published

2022-05-31

How to Cite

Beel, J., Xiang, T., Soni, S., & Yang, D. (2022). Linguistic Characterization of Divisive Topics Online: Case Studies on Contentiousness in Abortion, Climate Change, and Gun Control. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 32-42. Retrieved from https://ojs.aaai.org/index.php/ICWSM/article/view/19270