Anyone who manages or participates in online communities will have observed "bad" behaviour at one time or another. John Davis at Microsoft Research has published an eight page report, The Experience of ‘Bad’ Behavior in Online Social Spaces: A survey of users , that many will find useful for understanding the prevalance of the problem, it’s causes and the effects of anti-social behaviour in a variety of internet mediums.
In the conclusion to the report, Davis writes that: "respondents reported that they experience such behavior frequently in several online social environments, and it adversley impacts their own behavior in several ways – they leave and avoid contexts where bad behavior occurs. The cost of bad behavior is therefore high."
Davis sites anonymity, and the lack of accountability, as two of the primary causes of anti-social behaviour online.
So how can community managers curtail bad behaviour? Davis says that "because many system level responses, like having live moderators to respond to bad behavior, are extremely expensives, it would be preferable to have individual users deal with bad behavior instead. However, the results also show that typical user responses directed at perpetrators of bad behavior are ineffectual." He suggests the use of online profiles to encourage responsible participation and accountability. Reputation systems, Davis adds, are also useful in that they give other users some ability to to encourage positive behaviour from their peers. [see paper]
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