Why Are people more verbally abusive on FanFiction.Net in comparison to Archive of our own?

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Title: Why Are people more verbally abusive on FanFiction.Net in comparison to Archive of our own?
Creator: u/gertrude-robinson, multiple commentators
Date(s): Sept 22, 2020
Medium: Post to /r/fanfiction
Fandom: Pan-Fandom
Topic: Feedback, AO3 vs. Fanfiction.net
External Links: on Reddit, archive link
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Why Are people more verbally abusive on FanFiction.Net in comparison to Archive of our own? is a short commentary by u/gertrude-robinson, posted to the /r/FanFiction subreddit. The post inspired multiple in-depth comments speculating on why this might be.

The Post

"I’m not a fanfic writer but I’ve been an active user on both of these sites and realized how mean the reviewers on FanFiction.Net are in comparison to archive of our own. Calling authors stupid, horrible, and other slurs. Is there a general reason for this? Were does this comfortableness to insult so readily on FanFiction.Net come from?"


A wide variety of responses were posted (there were ~80 comments less than a week after the post was made)[1], all presenting slightly different arguments for the differences in feedback on the two fanfiction websites. In general, the commentators tended to focus on either the site infrastructure/moderation or the culture/demographics of the user base.

Site Infrastructure and Moderation

"AO3 has people running the website, people that enforce the TOS and look into problems, etc. Now, I don't claim to be an expert, but I get the feeling that the people running FFN have given up or are swamped with more than they have the time/workers to handle. FFN is the Wild Wild West, and many people know it.

Technically, smut isn't allowed on FFN either, but when's the last time you've seen that enforced? I don't think the site owners are paying attention."[2]

"[...] No, the difference here comes down to two things; Ao3 requires a waiting period to get in, and most trolls aren't willing to wait that long, and the fact that comments are posted publically on Ao3 at the bottom of the fic, whereas on FF.net you have to click a separate link to view them, which most readers don't do. This lends FF.net reviewers an air of anonymity that, while fake, still seems to encourage more trolly or mean-spirited reviews than you get on places like Ao3 where everyone reading the chapter is going to see your comment at the bottom, and others can respond to it and will likely call you out for being a jerk."[3]
"I agree. I'd also add to that the fact that you can't see the author's response to it and people can't directly respond to the reviews either. With Ao3, I've seen only one instance, but it was beautiful, where someone was bashing on a fic and another reader (not the author) came in like a knight and defended them.

People can be cruel and FFN is a platform that gives those types of people an easier way to do that.

Perhaps its also the tags and limited summaries too that help to contribute to FFN's environment (with Ao3, you have a basic idea of what you're getting into even before you click on a story, it's harder with FFN)."[3]

"Fanfiction.net moderators are also notoriously absent or very slow to react to reports of inappropriate comments. Some abusive commenters may be aware of this and exploit it."

Culture and Demographics

"On FF.net, it's not possible to delete reviews unless they're from guests/anons. On AO3, you can delete comments on your works from anybody. So it's possible that the amount of mean comments on both websites are the same, just that most of the AO3 mean comments get deleted. However, I don't feel that that's the case.

I'm just speaking from my own experience here, but I believe that FF.net users feel more entitled(?) to works meeting their expectations. This entitlement is enforced and spread by FF.net's forums, (something AO3 lacks) such as Critics United, who make it their mission to enforce every FF.net rule (which basically means they're setting out to take down and discourage 13-year-old's stories). The PM feature, along with the forums, also enables beef to form between users much easier than it would on AO3."

Another user pointed out that it is possible to delete reviews from logged-in users; follow-up conversation clarified that the information just isn't as advertised or user-friendly.

"Younger audience maybe, or possibly because they can’t be directly responded to in the comments so they think they’re getting away with it?"[4]
"IDK...to play devil's advocate..someone would want to see the reaction of the person they bashed, especially if they are an immature turd. A03 would be an ideal place because they would get what they want"[4]

Other users agreed that age might be an important factor; a popular comment contested that idea:

"I'ma have to disagree with most of the 'age' comments. The average age of the reader has less to do with which site you're on and more to do with what fandom you're in. Plus, Ao3 is by far the 'new, hot' website (comparatively speaking). The people who read and write mainly on FF.net are generally older and have been there for a while."[3]

Another perspective:

"People are overlooking the fact that FFN has a much higher proportion of male users and hetero users than AO3 does, and that fosters a much more traditional angry troll culture than a site like AO3, which is overwhelmingly female and queer.

That user base is just generally nicer to be around and more supportive. Far less gatekeeperish and more accepting of transformative fandom, less reverent of curative fandom."


  1. ^ This archived version was captured on September 29, six days after it was posted. There are 86 comments (including replies in threaded comments).
  2. ^ Individual comment thread. Accessed September 29, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Individual comment thread (with comments from u/Zesty_Crouton and u/CrispyHornet, among others.) Accessed Sept 29, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Individual comment thread. Accessed September 29, 2020.