DSI faculty member and Assistant Professor of Information Oliver Haimson has received a prestigious grant from the National Science Foundation, the NSF CAREER award. Haimson's winning research proposal is titled, "Toward Equitable Social Media Content Moderation for Marginalized Individuals and Communities." The project examines the causes and consequences of online platforms banning users and content that do not actually violate site policies, or fall into gray areas with respect to site policies and community norms. Such bans are additionally troubling and problematic in marginalized online communities, as Haimson notes a relationship between the types and prevalance of reasons people are banned or have content removed from social media sites, how these relate to systemic biases, and the implications of these practices.
Combining interviews, virtual ethnographies, focus groups, participatory design, and computational methods, Haimson's research will culminate in design recommendations for a context-aware content moderation system that balances community needs, norms, and values with platform requirements that can be applied across social media sites. Implementing this sociotechnical system online will include comprehensively evaluating it to understand the extent to which users consider it equitable and how well it meets their needs.
Haimson's work promises to yield theoretical insights around current inequalities in online content moderation and how moderation goals can be achieved more equitably by recognizing and respecting marginalized online communities' needs. In addition, this project will lead to a practical digital literacy online resource to help educate people about content and account removals and how to regain site access, and the results of this research will educate social media platforms about challenges marginalized populations face around content moderation.