"CivilBot" is the name we've given to the collection algorithms that help ensure fair voting on Civil Comments!
The community's collective votes, adjusted for bias, determine the decisions of CivilBot. It's a bit like a judge carrying out the will of a jury. If CivilBot could determine the civility of a particular comment on its own, we wouldn't need human peer reviews! Alas, no one has figured out how to do this yet—not even Google or Facebook, who have some of the smartest people in computer science working on natural language processing.
CivilBot pools and analyzes everyone's votes, doing thousands of comparisons across users every day, to determine what are "good" votes and what are "biased" votes. Right now, it's a little overly sensitive; we're currently tweaking it to be more lenient. On the whole, though, it is working really well!
We rely on what the community as a whole agrees is acceptable or unacceptable, as opposed to traditional moderation. With traditional moderation, a single person (removed from the commenting community and employed by the publisher) would decide whether a comment was acceptable or not. We think our system is more fair.
We've also taken extra precautions to keep the comments from turning into an echo chamber. Each comment is reviewed by multiple people, and we pool and analyze those reviews to check for patterns of bias and abuse.
We also use that data to help decide who sees which comments for review, and we anonymize veteran commenters to prevent bias against specific users.
CivilBot might contact you for one of a few reasons:
Voter Warning: CivilBot might have noticed that your votes on comments have differed consistently from what the rest of the community decides is okay. This might be because you've been giving approval votes to comments containing spam or abuse that end up being rejected by the rest of the community or by a moderator. It also might happen if you're rejecting comments that end up being viewed as perfectly reasonable by the rest of the community.
Voter Thanks: Hey--CivilBot notices when your voting improves, and will send you a thank-you message :). CivilBot might also thank you for being a consistently awesome and civil commenter, and give you Trusted User status.