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Title:Behind the screen: the hidden digital labor of commercial content moderation
Author(s):Roberts, Sarah T.
Director of Research:Smith, Linda C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Smith, Linda C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Nakamura, Lisa M.; Downey, Greg J.; McCarthy, Cameron R.
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Commercial content moderation (CCM)
Content screening
Digital labor
User-generated content (UGC)
Social media
Information Flow
Information society
Immaterial production
Knowledge labor
Abstract:Commercial content moderation (CCM) is the practice of screening of user-generated content (UGC) posted to Internet sites, social media platforms and other online outlets that encourage and rely upon such material to generate visits to and participation from users. Despite being essential to the media production cycle for these commercial websites and social media platforms as a major source of brand protection, gatekeeping and tastemaking, commercial content moderation is largely unknown outside its own industry and those that rely on it. This research endeavors to unveil the practice of commercial content moderation and to further contextualize it alongside contemporary trends of globalization, outsourcing and other economic and geospatial reconfigurations facilitated by the increasingly networked nature of the world. CCM tasks vacillate from the mind-numbingly repetitive and mundane to exposure to images and material that can be violent, disturbing and, at worst, psychologically damaging, and it requires these tasks of workers that are frequently relatively low-status and low-wage. The workers are typically further isolated because the work they do is in secret, considered an issue of brand protection by their employers. Using analysis of in-depth qualitative interviews with CCM workers in a variety of sectors coupled with techniques of Critical Discourse Analysis of industry-generated materials (e.g., websites; work solicitations), this research connects the practices of CCM to digital media economics, digital media practices and their sociopolitical, economic and ethical implications. It reports on and describes the experiences of content moderators in a number of different contexts and situations. It provides a taxonomy for understanding the worksites and practices of CCM and maps it, on theoretical grounds, to other types of digital and non-digital work, aligning it in the greater context of the ecology of social media to the end of recognizing, acknowledging and improving the conditions under which the CCM workers labor.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Sarah T. Roberts
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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