Metaphors in moderation

Joseph Seering, Geoff Kaufman, Stevie Chancellor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Volunteer content moderators are essential to the social media ecosystem through the roles they play in managing and supporting online social spaces. Recent work has described moderation primarily as a functional process of actions that moderators take, such as making rules, removing content, and banning users. However, the nuanced ways in which volunteer moderators envision their roles within their communities remain understudied. Informed by insights gained from 79 interviews with volunteer moderators from three platforms, we present a conceptual map of the territory of social roles in volunteer moderation, which identifies five categories with 22 metaphorical variants that reveal moderators’ implicit values and the heuristics that help them make decisions. These metaphors more clearly enunciate the roles volunteer moderators play in the broader social media content moderation apparatus and can drive purposeful engagement with volunteer moderators to better support the ways they guide and shape their communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Media and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Facebook
  • governance
  • metaphors
  • moderation
  • online communities
  • platforms
  • Reddit
  • Twitch


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