A Crisis of Civility? Modeling Incivility and Its Effects in Political Discourse Online


  • Yujia Gao Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Wenna Qin Stanford University
  • Aniruddha Murali Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Christopher Eckart Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Xuhui Zhou Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jacob Daniel Beel Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Yi-Chia Wang Meta
  • Diyi Yang Stanford University




Growing concerns have been raised about the detrimental effects of uncivil comments on the web towards democracy. However, there is still a lack of understanding about online incivility's nuanced and complicated nature and its impact on conversation development and user behaviors. This work aims to fill that research gap by modeling incivility and its relationship to political discussions. We develop a comprehensive and fine-grained taxonomy that characterizes incivility with vulgarity, name-calling (inter-personal and third-party attacks), aspersion, and stereotypes, and then apply the framework to quantify the level of each incivility category in over 40 million comments from Reddit. Using large-scale quantitative analysis, we investigate the types of interactions and contexts in which incivility is more likely to occur, model how incivility shapes subsequent conversations, and examine user engagement patterns and behavioral changes after exposure to incivility. Our findings show that conversations that start out uncivil tend to become more uncivil in responses, and exposure to different incivility categories has differing effects on community members' engagement. We conclude with the implications of our research in assisting the design and moderation of online political communities.




How to Cite

Gao, Y., Qin, W., Murali, A., Eckart, C., Zhou, X., Beel, J. D., Wang, Y.-C., & Yang, D. (2024). A Crisis of Civility? Modeling Incivility and Its Effects in Political Discourse Online. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 18(1), 408-421. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v18i1.31323