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At Scale and under Pressure: How Social Media Moderate, Choreograph, and Censor Public Discourse

Lecture | April 19 | 4:10-5:30 p.m. | 202 South Hall

Tarleton Gillespie

Information, School of

Problematic forms of online expression and activity are pushing social media platforms to face some difficult questions. While many platforms continue to celebrate themselves as providing open spaces for public participation, in fact they have always had to police inappropriate speech and anti-social behavior. I will discuss the array of challenges social media platforms face, the justifications they offer for their interventions, and some of the implications that their responses present. As these platforms weigh possible measures â including removing content or users, limiting or blocking content from other usersâ eyes, or defending content as protected speech â they revive and extend a century of questions about the role of private intermediaries in sorting out what should be made visible and what should be obscured. And in the way that they implement these measures, they have built up a complex system of sociotechnical mechanisms and distributed labor forces that now structure and drive the logic of the platform. Finally, because these decisions must be enacted at an enormous scale, they may depend on a logic that is fundamentally orthogonal to how users experience them, as specific incidents and impositions.