The downsides of digital labor: Exploring the toll incivility takes on online comment moderators


This study sought to understand the effects of moderating uncivil online comments on the people who do this task. Results from an experiment (N = 747) show that moderating only uncivil comments made moderators less accurate at that task, more emotionally exhausted, and more dissatisfied with the task, relative to moderating only civil comments or a mix of civil and uncivil comments. In addition, results show evidence of a mediation effect. Specifically, moderating all uncivil comments made people more emotionally exhausted, and this exhaustion in turn led people to be less accurate in picking which comments to reject or accept for publication on a news site comment thread. However, moderating comments had no effect on perceptions of flow, an immersive experience, conceptually borne out of the field of positive psychology. Results suggest breaking up strenuous online labor tasks, such as comment moderation, and alternating comment moderation with other types of work to reduce the deleterious effects of the task.