Notes from #MIT8: ‘The Internet as Archive’ panel – Censorship by Algorithm

On Friday, May 3, I presented my paper Exploring the Boundaries of a Website: Using the Internet Archive to Study Historical Web Ecologies in ‘The Internet as Archive’ panel at MIT8. Co-panelist Chris Peterson talked about user-generated censorship as a form of censorship by algorithm. He gave a few examples of this type of censorship: First, the example of Facebook users flagging J30Strike.org links which led to Facebook blocking all links to J30Strike.org and subsequently blocking links from websites linking to J30Strike.org. Second, the example of the Digg Patriots group which down votes all liberal articles to game the system into displaying more conservative articles on the Digg frontage. This type of user-generated censorship by ‘playing’ the algorithm that organizes content is related to Taina Bucher’s work on the threat of algorithmic invisibility on Facebook where she argues that the Facebook algorithm is designed in such a way that constant interaction with friends and the platform is needed in order to be visible to your friends in their NewsFeed. The algorithm does not only play an important role in the organization of content and friends but also in the (in)visibility of content and friends. Whereas on Facebook users may optimize their behavior/interactions in order to stay visible, the Digg Patriots group is more aligned with practices of negative ‘optimization’ by gaming the algorithm to influence the organization and ranking of content by aiming to make it invisible.

 

Related links from the MIT Center for Civic Media:

Betraying Expectations in User Generated Censorship

The Ark in the Archives: Toward A Theory of Link-Oriented Antiepistemology

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