Tarleton Gillespie / Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media / 11.13.2018

Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England, part of the Social Media Collective research group. He is an affiliated associate professor at Cornell University, in the Department of Communication and the Department of Information Science. He cofounded the blog Culture Digitally.

He is the author of “Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture” (MIT, 2007), the co-editor of Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (MIT, 2014); his newest book is “Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media” (Yale, 2018).

Talk: “Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media”

Abstract: Most social media users want their chosen platforms free from harassment and porn. But they also want to see the content they choose to see. This means platforms face an irreconcilable contradiction: while platforms promise an open space for participation and community, every one of them imposes rules of some kind. In the early days of social media, content moderation was hidden away, even disavowed. But the illusion of the open platform has, in recent years, begun to crumble. Today, content moderation has never been more important, or more controversial. In Custodians of the Internet, Tarleton Gillespie investigates how social media platforms police what we post online, and the societal impact of these decisions. The book argues that we need to flip the way we think about moderation—content moderation is not ancillary to what platforms do, it is essential, definitional, constitutional. This insight should change how we understand what platforms are.

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