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A NEW BLACK BOX METHODOLOGY: THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF INTERROGATING THE MODERATION OF IMAGES DEPICTING WOMEN’S BODIES ON INSTAGRAM
Alice Elizabeth Amelia Witt Witt
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
The black box around online platforms’ internal governance practices makes it difficult for users to trust that their expression is moderated in ways that are free from arbitrariness and bias. This paper proposes a black box methodology for examining content moderation in practice when only parts of a platform’s regulatory system are visible from the outside. The proposed methodology, which uses content analysis and innovative digital methods to investigate how discrete inputs (i.e. images) produce certain outputs (i.e. whether an image is removed or not removed), is explained through a topical case study into whether like images of Underweight, Mid-Range and Overweight women’s bodies are moderated alike on Instagram. Overall, results show a trend of inconsistent moderation: specifically, up to 22% of 4,994 coded images were removed by Instagram or by the user and are therefore potentially false positives. Moreover, the odds of removal for Underweight, Mid-Range and Overweight images differ. These results suggest that concerns around the risk of arbitrariness and bias on Instagram, and, indeed, ongoing distrust of the platform among users, might not be unfounded. In outlining the proposed methodology, this paper evaluates the methodological, legal and ethical challenges to studying Instagram, many of which are due to the significant lack of transparency around platform governance more broadly. By evaluating these challenges, we can better assess the efficacy of using black box analytics and digital methods to examine important questions around content moderation at scale.
11:20am - 11:40am
‘I TRUST TRANSGENDER FEMALE MICROCELEBRITIES’: FROM BUILDING A NEW BODY TO BECOME AN INSPIRING IDOL
Bangkok University, Thailand
Much global attention is given to Bangkok as the “Mecca of transsexual body modification” (Aizura, 2010, p. 2) for both Thai and non-Thai transgender women. Clearly, it has garnered an international reputation as “being culturally tolerant of gender variance” (p. 16), in particular, for transgendered women or ladyboys. However, they are still considered marginalized in Thai society and are not well-accepted for many Thais. Since the rise of networked technology, some Thai transgender women have lived online, formed likeminded-groups, and shared support. This paper argues that their blogs serve as counter-publics for the unheard voices to be publicly visible. At the intersection of technology, identity and online participation literatures, this research extends microcelebrity literature and borrows second-wave feminist value, “personal is political” to examine transgender women beauty bloggers and their blogs and understand how (their) personal is political. For this project, I had in-depth interviews with seven transgender women beauty bloggers in Thailand, taken in 2-hour period each during December 2016 and February 2017. Findings show that, Thai transgender female beauty blogs serve as “social-conscience-style activis[t]” (Vromen, 2006) who build their own bodies, friend their fans (regardless of how many followers they have accumulated), and become inspiring idols. The blogs lend themselves to serve as informational and emotional support to their followers, especially transgendered followers. Bloggers enact micro-political actions to be seen online and empower the marginalized, thus, become a trustworthy source.
11:40am - 12:00pm
EXAMINING THE “ELSAGATE” PHENOMENON: DISTURBING CHILDREN’S YOUTUBE CONTENT AND NEW FRONTIERS IN CHILDREN’S CULTURE
Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
This paper investigates new genres of children's content on YouTube that have provoked potent cultural anxieties about the role of YouTube in children's culture, and have raised concerns about the apparent wealth of content targeted at children on the platform that is not child-appropriate. The paper examines the journalistic commentary that constitutes the "Elsagate" phenomenon - the neologism used to describe public revelations about the controversy - and conducts a genre studies textual analysis of the YouTube content consistently referenced in this commentary. This analysis aims to illuminate the relationship between the textual features of disturbing children's YouTube content and the cultural anxieties these features have incited.
The paper contends that the child-oriented YouTube genres at the centre of the Elsagate controversy re-position extant cultural boundaries of child-appropriate content – boundaries which in some cases have long been enshrined in policy and standards guidelines – in ways that trouble ingrained ideological distinctions between child and adult culture. The paper illustrates how disturbing children’s YouTube content interrupts traditional power balances and interplays between media industries, parental mediation strategies, and “child-effects”: young children’s agency over their own consumption choices and influence on parental media practices (Bulck et al, 2016).