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How aspiring influencers are forced to fight the algorithm

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There are two ways to try to understand the impact of content moderation and the algorithms that enforce those rules: relying on what the platform says, and asking the creators themselves. In Tyler’s case, TikTok apologized and blamed an automated filter set up to flag words associated with hate speech, but apparently failed to understand the context.

Cornell associate professor Brooke Erin Duffy teamed up with graduate student Colten Meisner to interview TikTok, Instagram, Twitch as Taylor’s video went viral 30 creators on , YouTube and Twitter. They want to know how creators, especially from marginalized groups, navigate the algorithms and moderation practices of the platforms they use.

What they found: Creators put a lot of effort into understanding the algorithms that shape their experiences and relationships on these platforms. Because many creators use multiple platforms, they must learn the unspoken rules of each platform. Some creators adapt their entire approach to producing and promoting content in response to the algorithms and moderation biases they encounter.

Below is our conversation with Duffy about her upcoming research (edited and condensed for clarity).

Creators have long discussed how algorithms and moderation affect their visibility on the platforms that made them famous. So what surprised you the most while doing these interviews?

We had a feeling that the creator’s experience was shaped by their understanding of the algorithm, but after doing the interviews we really started to see how profound it was [this impact] It’s in their daily life and work…the time, energy, and attention they spend learning these algorithms, investing in them. They have this critical awareness that these algorithms are considered unbalanced. Still, they put all that energy into it, hoping to understand them. It just really brought attention to the uneven nature of the creator economy.

How often do creators consider the possibility of censorship or content not reaching audiences because of algorithmic suppression or moderation practices?

I think it fundamentally builds their content creation process as well as their content promotion process. These algorithms change at will; there is no insight. In many cases, platforms do not have direct communication. This completely, fundamentally affects not only your experience, but also your revenue.



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