Raging Against the Machine: Network Gatekeeping and Collective Action on Social Media Platforms

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Raging Against the Machine: Network Gatekeeping and Collective Action on Social Media Platforms


  • Sarah Myers West Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, USA


Abstract  Social media platforms act as networked gatekeepers—by ranking, channeling, promoting, censoring, and deleting content they hold power to facilitate or hinder information flows. One of the mechanisms they use is content moderation, or the enforcement of which content is allowed or disallowed on the platform. Though content moderation relies on users’ labor to identify content to delete, users have little capacity to influence content policies or enforcement. Despite this, some social media users are turning to collective action campaigns, redirecting information flows by subverting the activities of moderators, raising the visibility of otherwise hidden moderation practices, and organizing constituencies in opposition to content policies. Drawing on the example of the campaign to change Facebook’s nudity policy, this paper examines the strategies and tactics of users turning to collective action, considering which factors are most influential in determining the success or failure of a campaign. It finds that network gatekeeping salience is a good model for assessing which collective action efforts are most likely to be effective in achieving individual user goals. This indicates that the users who are already most able to harness the attention economy of social media platforms are more likely to successfully navigate the content moderation process. The analysis concludes by attending to what users might learn from the dynamics of network gatekeeping as they seek to resist the asymmetrical power relations of platforms.


Keywords  collective action; content moderation; network gatekeeping; platforms; social media


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v5i3.989


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