Professor Graham Denyer Willis
University of Cambridge
“I’m a Fan: Content Moderation and the Labour of Artificial Intelligence”
Thursday, September 21, 2017, from 4:00 to 5:30
Room: JHB318, Jackman Humanities Building
A new field of service work has emerged. Content moderation is the labour of deleting images, words, videos from internet platforms. Tens of thousands do this work every day in call centres and living rooms around the world. Vitally, the process of moderating content can also double as the process of coding data. Coded data is the genetic material of image recognition and artificial intelligence (AI). A machine learns from being given the distinction between a positive and negative. These two processes can be, are increasingly, carried out together by companies vying for upstart market share in the content moderation business. This means the outcome is intertwined; what we see online is inseparable from the iterative process of evermore refined -and cheap- automation. I reflect on ethnographic work carried out as a content moderator to discuss how sometimes this goes wrong; as when a machine comes to believe that a ceiling fan is sexual.