Content Moderation and Its Discontents

Content Moderation and Its Discontents

An International Conference, St. Mary’s University (London, UK), 23 June 2023

Register here


In recent years, content moderation on social media has become a contested topic. As forms of online extremism, harassment and hate speech have increased on major platforms, community guidelines and AI-based detection and moderation policies have been introduced to tighten regulation, yet such plans often fall short or are actively circumvented, as Elon Musk’s efforts at undoing what he regards as excessive restriction of “free speech” on Twitter demonstrate for instance. Some spaces on the internet are also notorious for their lax or inexistent moderation policies, such as Reddit or 4chan. In times of culture wars, many have also claimed an erosion of free speech in a climate of “cancel culture” in which it has allegedly become impossible to share particular viewpoints or ideas. Equally many have disputed the very existence of cancel culture and have pointed out that many instances of deplatforming or cancellation are mere shifts in discourses whereby voices who have been marginalised are now claiming their rightful place on the discursive stage. This conference takes the complex relationship between the facilitation and moderation of content and particularly of content that can broadly be labelled “problematic” as a starting point. 


Conference Programme

9.30-9.45am Registration and coffee

9.45am Introduction  

Jacob Johanssen (St. Mary’s University), Daniela Nadj (St. Mary’s University), Susanne Benzel (Sigmund Freud Institute)


10-11.20am Harassment and hate speech

Thi Gammon (King’s College London) – Hate content and online shaming of showbiz celebrities in Vietnam: The case study of Tran Thanh

Eirliani Abdul Rahman (Harvard University) – “You all belong in jail!” – Stochastic harassment on Twitter

Elizabeth Farries and Eugenia Siapera (UCD Centre for Digital Policy) – Platformed misogyny and the limits of regulation: Cancel culture and shadow banning  


11.30am-12.30pm Keynote

Phoebe Moore and Peter Bloom (University of Essex) – The new normal: Content moderation during and after the Pandemic


12.30-2pm Lunch  


2-3.20pm Frameworks and methods

Gergely Gosztonyi (Eötvös Loránd University) and Gergely Ferenc Lendvai (Pázmány Péter Catholic University) – “Censored, cancelled, annulled” – A comprehensive, interdisciplinary overview of the legal implications and regulatory framework regarding censorship and cancel culture

Yang Yu (Tsinghua University), Yan Lu (Tsinghua University) and Wei Ming Ye (Peking University) – Audit the account deletion’s impact on compliant users on social media

Emillie V. de Keulenaar (University of Groningen) – After deplatforming: The return of trace research for the study of platform effects


3.20-3.40pm Coffee break  


3.40-5pm Psychoanalytic approaches

Marilyn Charles (Austen Riggs Center) – Tyranny of the shoulds: The press towards conformity

Greta Kaluzeviciute (Vilnius University) – Digital archeo-analysis: ‘Digging’ past reflections, ‘shaping’ present narratives

Clint Burnham (Simon Fraser University) – From shitstorm to Schmittstorm: Or, no, there still is no big Other


5pm-6.20pm Case studies

Max Lasse Schaefer (University of Edinburgh) – How is evidence presented and formed in an incel echo chamber?

Klara Avsec (Lund University) – Deplatforming and competitive victimhood

Alois Sieben (Simon Fraser University) – Infinite intimacy: The möbius strip of content in Mary South’s “You Will Never Be Forgotten”  


6.20pm Wine reception and dinner