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Are Proactive Interventions for Reddit Communities Feasible?

Reddit has found its communities playing a prominent role in originating and propagating problematic socio-political discourse. Reddit administrators have generally struggled to prevent or contain such discourse for several reasons including: (1) the inability for a handful of human administrators to track and react to millions of posts and comments per day and (2) fear of backlash as a consequence of administrative decisions to ban or quarantine hateful communities. Consequently, administrative actions (community bans and quarantines) are often taken only when problematic discourse within a community spills over into the real world with serious consequences. In this paper, we investigate the feasibility of deploying tools to proactively identify problematic communities on Reddit. Proactive identification strategies show promise for three reasons: (1) they have potential to reduce the manual efforts required to track communities for problematic content, (2) they give administrators a scientific rationale to back their decisions and interventions, and (3) they facilitate early and more nuanced interventions (than banning or quarantining) to mitigate problematic discourse.