Has Reddit proven Godwin’s Law? The popular concept claims that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison invoving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”
Where better to test out this notion than Reddit. The site that has given itself the moniker “the front page of the internet” is home to millions of users who use its forums (known as subreddits) to divulge their opinions on a range of topics, from the popular to the niche. As anyone, who has waded into an online thread is likely aware, you should go in prepared for the worst.
Analyzing publicly available Reddit data, the new study (courtesy of website Curious Gnu) shows that 78 percent of Reddit threads that contain over 1,000 comments mention Nazis. For threads that ranged up to 4,000 comments, the likelihood of a Nazi or Hitler mention rose to 90 percent.
As the author behind the study makes clear, this doesn’t exactly prove Godwin’s Law, as it only mines the data for mentions of those words, and not the context behind them (i.e., whether they were genuine comparisons, as stated in the popular web notion).
As you can see in the graph below, the threads with the most mentions of Nazis or Hitler are from “History” or “European” related subreddits, which makes sense. However, the appearance of a couple of Donald Trump subreddits won’t do his Reddit supporters any favors.
Although many Reddit threads urge users to practice civility in their posts and comments, it seems that an active thread can easily descend into chaos, especially in relation to a contentious subject (such as politics). Reddit, for its part, recently pushed through new blocking tools aimed at curbing abuse on its site.
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