Godwin's Law

(on comments, Nazis, and internet civility)

Travis Hoppe


Featured on


Godwin's Law

Mike Godwin (Wired 1994)

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1".

No empirical studies to date! Let's test it!

I think of empirical observations as testable. Sorry Mike...

Why is this important? (aka the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory)

Any conversation is effectively over once someone makes a
comparison to one of the worst genocides in history.

An implicit assumption* is that conversation
is over once the atrocities of the third Reich are invoked.

...10 second digression on eponymous laws....

Wikipedia page of eponymous laws

how cool is this!?


Recently, u/stuck_in_the_matrix downloaded _every comment_ from Reddit.
It took 9 months, is 100 GB compressed, and is about 1 TB uncompressed raw json.

  • 105,925,637 submissions (posts)
  • 189,283 invocations of Godwin's law
  • 69,912 when considering conversations of length > 50


A Nazi by any other name...

A Google Doc of pure evil

TTG (time-to-Godwin)

happens in the first few hours...

all Godwin posts with >50 comments

PTG (posts-to-Godwin)

happens early comment order ... but comments continue!

all Godwin posts with >50 comments

Godwin invalidated...?

Limiting probability of Godwin is about 0.00065, or 1 out of every 1500 posts.

all posts (Godwin/Non Godwin) with >50 comments

Ongoing research!

What does the null look like? e.g. The Hitler vs puppies?

Does a conversation stop post-Godwin?

What is the quality of conversation post-Godwin?

Can we try to prevent it? Should we?

Is Reddit pathological or representative?

Thanks you!