Podcast, VideoSeptember 27 2018

Freedom in Moderation: Platforms, Press, and the Public

Tarleton Gillespie, Mike Ananny, Kate Klonick

Databite No. 114

Mike Ananny and Tarleton Gillespie join Kate Klonick for a conversation about the underlying decisions that impact the public’s access to media systems and internet platforms.


In Networked Press Freedom: Creating Infrastructures for a Public Right to Hear, Mike Ananny offers a new way to think about freedom of the press in a time when media systems are in fundamental flux. Seeing press freedom as essential for democratic self-governance, Ananny explores what publics need, what kind of free press they should demand, and how today’s press freedom emerges from intertwined collections of humans and machines. His book proposes what robust, self-governing publics need to demand of technologists and journalists alike.

Tarleton Gillespie’s Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media investigates how social media platforms police what we post online—and the way these decisions shape public discourse, cultural production, and the fabric of society. Gillespie provides an overview of current social media practices and explains the underlying rationales for how, when, and why “content moderators” censor or promote user-posted content. The book then flips the way we think about moderation, to argue that content moderation is not ancillary to what platforms do, it is essential, definitional, constitutional. And given that, the very fact of moderation should change how we understand what platforms are.

To review Data & Society’s work on content moderation, and the relationship between the press and democratic norms, see our Media Manipulation research initiative.

Mike Ananny is an associate professor of communication and journalism in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, a Faculty Affiliate with USC’s Science, Technology, and Society initiative, and a 2018-19 Berggruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England and an affiliated associate professor at Cornell University. He co-founded the blog Culture Digitally. His previous book is the award-winning Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture.

Kate Klonick is an assistant professor at law at St. John’s University Law School and an affiliate fellow resident fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, Data & Society, and New America. Her work on networked technologies’ effect on the areas of social norm enforcement, torts, property, intellectual property, artificial intelligence, robotics, freedom of expression, and governance has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, Maryland Law Review, New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Guardian and numerous other publications.

About Databites

Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.