Pride and Professionalization in Volunteer Moderation: Lessons for Effective Platform–User Collaboration

Joseph Seering, Brianna Dym, Geoff Kaufman, and Michael Bernstein
Journal of Online Trust & Safety, 2022
While most moderation actions on major social platforms are performed by either the platforms themselves or volunteer moderators, it is rare for platforms to collaborate directly with moderators to address problems. This paper examines how the group-chatting platform Discord coordinated with experienced volunteer moderators to respond to hate and harassment toward LGBTQ+ communities during Pride Month, June 2021, in what came to be known as the “Pride Mod” initiative. Representatives from Discord and volunteer moderators collaboratively identified and communicated with targeted communities, and volunteers temporarily joined servers that requested support to supplement those servers’ existing volunteer moderation teams. Though LGBTQ+ communities were subject to a wave of targeted hate during Pride Month, the communities that received the requested volunteer support reported having a better capacity to handle the issues that arose. This paper reports the results of interviews with 11 moderators who participated in the initiative as well as the Discord employee who coordinated it. We show how this initiative was made possible by the way Discord has cultivated trust and built formal connections with its most active volunteers, and discuss the ethical implications of formal collaborations between for-profit platforms and volunteer users.

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