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The Intersectional Internet

Race, Sex, Class, and Culture Online

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Edited By Safiya Umoja Noble and Brendesha M. Tynes

From race, sex, class, and culture, the multidisciplinary field of Internet studies needs theoretical and methodological approaches that allow us to question the organization of social relations that are embedded in digital technologies, and that foster a clearer understanding of how power relations are organized through technologies.
Representing a scholarly dialogue among established and emerging critical media and information studies scholars, this volume provides a means of foregrounding new questions, methods, and theories which can be applied to digital media, platforms, and infrastructures. These inquiries include, among others, how representation to hardware, software, computer code, and infrastructures might be implicated in global economic, political, and social systems of control.
Contributors argue that more research needs to explicitly trace the types of uneven power relations that exist in technological spaces. By looking at both the broader political and economic context and the many digital technology acculturation processes as they are differentiated intersectionally, a clearer picture emerges of how under-acknowledging culturally situated and gendered information technologies are impacting the possibility of participation with (or purposeful abstinence from) the Internet.
This book is ideal for undergraduate and graduate courses in Internet studies, library and information studies, communication, sociology, and psychology. It is also ideal for researchers with varying expertise and will help to advance theoretical and methodological approaches to Internet research.
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Chapter Eight: Commercial Content Moderation: Digital Laborers’ Dirty Work

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Commercial Content Moderation: Digital Laborers’ Dirty Work

SARAH T. ROBERTS

 

WHAT IS CCM?

Social media platforms are essentially empty vessels that need user-generated uploads to fuel visits to and participation in their sites. Other companies whose specialties are not in the social or digital media arena at all may simply have an interactive portion of their website to monitor, a Facebook page to maintain, or a Twitter account to contend with. For all of these companies, online brand and reputation management is a key part of their business practice. To guard against digital damage to their brand that could be caused by lewd, disturbing, or even illegal content being displayed and transmitted on their sites, companies use the services of commercial content moderation (CCM) workers and firms, who screen the content. They may screen the content before it gets posted or deal with it after, when another user flags something as being in violation of site guidelines, local tastes or norms, or even the law.

Yet CCM is not an industry unto itself, per se. Rather, it is a series of practices with shared characteristics that take place in a variety of worksites (e.g., in-house at large tech firms; online via microlabor websites such as Amazon Mechanical Turk). Workers are dispersed globally (Chen, 2014), and the work is almost always done in secret for low wages by relatively low-status workers, who must...

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