Custodians of the Internet: Hidden decisions that shape social media

Theatre 1 (room B103)
207 Bouverie St
Parkville, Vic 3010

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While most social media users want their chosen platforms free from harassment and porn, 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 his new book, Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, content moderation, and the hidden decisions that shape social media, Tarleton Gillespie explains how social media platforms police what we post online – and the societal impact of these decisions. Content moderation has never been ancillary or after-the-fact – it is crucial and definitional to what platforms do. Platforms can no longer duck the responsibility of being better custodians to the massive and contested public realm they have helped bring into being. But what are those companies’ responsibilities to the public?

About our speaker

Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, an affiliated associate professor in the Department of Communication and Department of Information Science at Cornell University, co-founder of the blog Culture Digitally, author of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture (MIT, 2007) , co-editor of Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (MIT, 2014), and author of Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media (Yale, 2018).