Our Online Janitor

Commercial content moderation(CCM) workers function much like a janitor. They work for little pay, little acknowledgment, and deal with disgusting things all day long. They are also expected to remain invisible while taking care of something others don’t want to have to deal with. One significant issue is that if the janitor doesn’t know about the mess, they’re unable to clean it up. Content that is potentially a violation of a site’s guidelines are not seen by the CCM worker until a flag has gone up. Within this lies the significant problem that the content becomes normalized.

The CCM worker is expected to completely remove themselves from their own beliefs and even own culture at times. If a person is not exposed to the racist patterns found in American culture, how can they be expected to screen for content that could be offensive to an African-American individual? Racist material being used as humor is undoubtedly present in the digital age, with GIFs and Vine being prime examples. CCM workers don’t even have the power to remove blackface because it alone is not considered hate speech.

A clearly offensive post made by a large company in a misguided attempt at humor and marketing.

The post above shows a social media post that was most definitely racist and offensive but was only taken down by the company at their choosing, not by CCM workers. The lines are very blurred when it comes to regulating images dealing with race, calling out abuse, sexism, and more. The job of a CCM worker is clearly no small achievement and their hidden labor contributes significantly to the sites we use everyday. By investigating CCM, race can be better understood as it functions in a digital space.

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