Towards Intersectional Moderation: An Alternative Model of Moderation Built on Care and Power

Sarah A. Gilbert

Shortcomings of current models of moderation have driven policy makers, scholars, and technologists to speculate about alternative models of content moderation. While alternative models provide hope for the future of online spaces, they can fail without proper scaffolding. Community moderators are routinely confronted with similar issues and have therefore found creative ways to navigate these challenges. Learning more about the decisions these moderators make, the challenges they face, and where they are successful can provide valuable insight into how to ensure alternative moderation models are successful. In this study, I perform a collaborative ethnography with moderators of r/AskHistorians, a community that uses an alternative moderation model, highlighting the importance of accounting for power in moderation. Drawing from Black feminist theory, I call this "intersectional moderation." I focus on three controversies emblematic of r/AskHistorians' alternative model of moderation: a disagreement over a moderation decision; a collaboration to fight racism on Reddit; and a period of intense turmoil and its impact on policy. Through this evidence I show how volunteer moderators navigated multiple layers of power through care work. To ensure the successful implementation of intersectional moderation, I argue that designers should support decision-making processes and policy makers should account for the impact of the sociotechnical systems in which moderators work.

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