The Collapse of Twitter, Zombie Cyberlibertarianism, & Commercial Content Moderation with Sarah T. Roberts

Apple Podcasts


Resonate Recordings

The collapse of Twitter seems imminent. For good or ill, the social media platform has become standard, if not essential, to many professions, including academia. Its collapse is also ominous, one of several indicators of a seismic shift in global media. Matt Seybold will be examining these contexts in a three-part podcast series, “Social Problems,” beginning with this episode, in which he sits down with a content moderation expert to discuss Twitter’s unraveling under Elon Musk and it’s potential replacement, Mastodon, among other things.

Sarah T. Roberts is Associate Professor of Information Studies at UCLA, where she also holds an appointment in Gender Studies. Her first book, Behind The Screen: Content Moderation in The Shadows of Social Media (Yale UP, 2019), established her as the leading scholar on commercial content moderation (CCM).

Matt Seybold is Associate Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, as well as resident scholar at the Center For Mark Twain Studies, and Founding Director of EC’s Media Studies, Communication, & Design major. He has been primary host and executive producer of The American Vandal Podcast since its launch in October 2020.

The theme song for this series is “Social” by the ’90s punk band, Squirtgun, permissions generously granted by Mass Giorgini. Check out Squirtgun’s back catalog at Apple Music or Spotify.

Episode Bibliography:

Janet Abbate, Inventing The Internet (MIT, 2000)

Charlotte Alter, “Elon Musk & the Tech Bro Obsession with ‘Free Speech'” (Time, 4.29.2022)

Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village (Pluto, 2007)

Richard Barbrook & Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology” (Mute, September 1995)

Nick Bilton, “Silicon Valley’s Most Disturbing Obsession” (Vanity Fair, November 2016)

Ian Bogost, “The Age of Social Media is Ending” (The Atlantic, 11.10.2022)

Matt Burgess, “What is GDPR? The Summary Guide to GDPR Compliance in the UK” (Wired, 3.24.2020)

Jennifer Burns, Goddess of The Market: Ayn Rand & The American Right (Oxford UP, 2009)

Danielle Citron, The Fight For Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, & Love in The Digital Age (Norton, 2022)

Matt Durot, “Saudi Prince Alwoleed Becomes Twitter’s Second Largest Shareholder” (Forbes, 10.31.2022)

Jonathan Freedland, “The New Age of Ayn Rand: How She Won Over Trump & Silicon Valley” (The Guardian, 4.10.2017)

Clothilde Goujard, “WTF is DSA? What Europe’s New Content Moderation Law Means For The Internet” (POLITICO, 10.27.2022)

James Grimmelmann, “The Virtues of Moderation” (Yale Journal of Law & Technology, 2015)

Marie Hicks, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists & Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT, 2017)

Kate Klonick, “The New Governors: The People, Rules, & Processes Governing Online Speech” (Harvard Law Review, March 2017)

Jeff Kosseff, The United States of Anonymous: How The First Amendment Shaped Online Speech (Cornell UP, 2022)

Jeff Kosseff, The Twenty-Six Words That Created The Internet (Cornell UP, 2019)

Jennifer Light, “The Digital Landscape: New Space for Women?” (Gender, Place, & Culture, Spring 1995)

Jennifer Light, “When Computers Were Women” (Technology & Culture, Summer 1999)

Karl Marx, Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

David McCabe, “IBM, Marriott, & Mickey Mouse Take On Tech’s Favorite Law” (New York Times, 2.4.2020)

Mary Beth Meehan & Fred Turner, Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside A Fraying America (U Chicago, 2021)

Hyunjoo Jin & Chibuike Oguh, “Factbox: Who is Financing Elon Musk’s $44 Billion Deal to Buy Twitter?” (Reuters, 10.7.2022)

Michael Kwet, “Digital Colonialism: The Evolution of U.S. Empire” (TNI Longreads, 3.4.2021)

Sarah T. Roberts, “Elon Musk’s Twitter Shows Its Dark Side” (LA Times, 11.8.2022)

Sarah T. Roberts, Behind The Screen: Content Moderation in The Shadows of Social Media (Yale UP, 2019)

Sarah T. Roberts & Mel Hogan, “Left Behind: Futurist Fetishists, Prepping & The Abandonment of Earth” (Boundary 2 Online, August 2019)

Emma Roth, “‘Fix your companies. Or Congress will.’ Senator Ed Markey warns Elon Musk.” (The Verge, 11.13.2022)

Deepa Seetharaman, Jeff Horwitz, & Justin Scheck, “Facebook Says AI Will Clean Up The Platform. Its Own Engineers Have Doubts.” (Wall Street Journal, 10.17.2021)

Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network, & The Rise of Digital Utopianism (U. Chicago, 2006)

Fred Turner, “Burning Man at Google: A Cultural Infrastructure for New Media Production” (New Media & Society, 2009)

Audrey Watters, “Technology Imperialism, the California Ideology, & The Future of Higher Education” (ICDE, 2015)

Jillian C. York, Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism (Verso, 2021)