IViR Online Lunch Meeting: Sana Ahmad about content moderation practices

On the 25th of September, Sana Ahmad will talk about content moderation practices during our online IViR Lunch Meeting.

Sana Ahmad is a research fellow at the Weizenbaum Institute and the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre. She is currently writing her PhD on the outsourced content moderation industry in India at the Freie Universität Berlin. Prior to academia, she has worked in the capacity of digital campaigning with civil society organisations in India and in Europe.

India has since long maintained its position in the global offshored services market and the ICT sector is steadily adapting to demands from offshore clients for new expertise. This has also come to include content moderation, a back-end, non-voice business process which can be situated within the operations department of the IT-BPO (Information Technology Business Process Outsourcing) offices. Content moderators, bound by quality and quantity targets, look at the flagged user-generated content on social media platforms and make decisions to allow or delete the content, according to guidelines provided by social media companies. Considering the large process scale, these decisions are often to be made within a few seconds and require adept knowledge of manuals and guidelines, very high concentration as well as distantness to the sensitive and psychologically-distressing content. However, the content moderation process is treated as an industrial secret by all identified actors in the value chain, including outsourcing social media companies, suppliers as well as content moderators. This makes it extremely difficult for academics and journalists alike to assess moderation processes and accountability measures. Even less is known about the moderation employment and labour policies, performance regulation and socio-cultural discrepancies.

This talk will broadly map the global content moderation industry and India’s position within it using the global value chains approach and concentrates on the content moderators and their agency within the value chains’ sequential structures. This includes the role of content moderation software for organizing work, mico-managing the moderators as well as allowing tight controls on the work process by social media companies who design this software. In doing so, it makes use of empirical date from India, constituting of 65 semi-structured interviews with moderators, managers of local IT-BPO supplying companies, domestic social media companies, trade unions and civil society organisations and 100 quantitative survey responses from moderators. Using this empirical data, the talk raises questions if the content moderation outsourcing has evolved over the last years and if it is representative of the growing automation of content moderation process.

Meeting details:
Please register by sending an e-mail to Balázs Bodó, B.Bodo@uva.nl with subject line: Registration Online Meeting 25th September.