Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media

Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media

by Sarah T. Roberts

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An eye-opening look at the invisible workers who protect us from seeing humanity’s worst on today’s commercial internet
Social media on the internet can be a nightmarish place. A primary shield against hateful language, violent videos, and online cruelty uploaded by users is not an algorithm. It is people. Mostly invisible by design, more than 100,000 commercial content moderators evaluate posts on mainstream social media platforms: enforcing internal policies, training artificial intelligence systems, and actively screening and removing offensive material—sometimes thousands of items per day.
Sarah T. Roberts, an award-winning social media scholar, offers the first extensive ethnographic study of the commercial content moderation industry. Based on interviews with workers from Silicon Valley to the Philippines, at boutique firms and at major social media companies, she contextualizes this hidden industry and examines the emotional toll it takes on its workers. This revealing investigation of the people “behind the screen” offers insights into not only the reality of our commercial internet but the future of globalized labor in the digital age.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300235883
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 320,242
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Sarah T. Roberts is assistant professor of information studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a 2018 Carnegie Fellow and a 2018 winner of the EFF Pioneer Award.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Behind the Internet 1

1 Behind the Screen 20

2 Understanding Commercial Content Moderation 33

3 Screening in Silicon Valley 73

4 "I Call Myself a Sin-Eater" 134

5 "Modern Heroes": Moderating in Manila 170

6 Digital Humanity 201

Notes 223

Acknowledgments 239

Index 257

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