Study finds online commentards easily duped, manipulated

Internet forums often use reader moderation to determine which comments are the best, but new research suggests that tallying up and down votes for online comments is a poor measure of those comments’ actual quality.

Oh, you may think you know who’s brilliant and who’s a troll in our forums, dear Reg reader — but according to a paper published in the journal Science on Friday, the so-called wisdom of crowds can often be misleading.

When you rate things online, you are often exposed to others’ ratings (either aggregated or listed individually), Sean Taylor, one of the paper’s authors, wrote in a blog post describing the research. “It turns out that this does impact rating decisions and creates path dependence in ratings.”

Specifically, forum comments that receive positive votes are disproportionately more likely to be up-voted again, while comments that receive negative votes usually have those votes negated by positive ones shortly thereafter.

In other words, when people see that a comment has been up-voted, they tend to go along with the moderation in a herd-like fashion. When a comment has been down-voted, on the other hand, they tend to want to correct the moderation, producing an asymmetrically skewed snapshot of opinion — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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