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Pride and Professionalization in Volunteer Moderation: Lessons for Effective Platform-User CollaborationWhile most moderation actions on major social platforms are performed by either the platforms themselves or volunteer moderators, it is rare for platforms to collaborate directly with moderators to address problems. This paper examines how the group-chatting platform Discord coordinated with experienced volunteer moderators to respond to hate and harassment toward LGBTQ+ communities during Pride Month, June 2021, in what came to be known as the "Pride Mod" initiative. Representatives from Discord and volunteer moderators collaboratively identified and communicated with targeted communities, and volunteers temporarily joined servers that requested support to supplement those servers' existing volunteer moderation teams. Though LGBTQ+ communities were subject to a wave of targeted hate during Pride Month, the communities that received the requested volunteer support reported having a better capacity to handle the issues that arose. This paper reports the results of interviews with 11 moderators who participated in the initiative as well as the Discord employee who coordinated it. We show how this initiative was made possible by the way Discord has cultivated trust and built formal connections with its most active volunteers, and discuss the ethical implications of formal collaborations between for-profit platforms and volunteer users.Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 28, 2023
Social media platforms make trade-offs in their design and policy decisions to attract users and stand out from other platforms. These decisions are influenced by a number of considerations, e.g. what kinds of content moderation to deploy or what kinds of resources a platform has access to. Their choices play into broader political tensions; social media platforms are situated within a social context that frames their impact, and they can have politics through their design that enforce power structures and serve existing authorities. We turn to Pillowfort, a small social media platform, to examine these political tensions as a case study. Using a discourse analysis, we examine public discussion posts between staff and users as they negotiate the site's development over a period of two years. Our findings illustrate the tensions in navigating the politics that users bring with them from previous platforms, the difficulty of building a site's unique identity and encouraging commitment, and examples of how design decisions can both foster and break trust with users. Drawing from these findings, we discuss how the success and failure of new social media platforms are impacted by political influences on design and policy decisions.Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 14, 2023