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“Social Media Police” and “Wonder Girl”: Phenomenological Accounts of Content Moderators’ Experiences in the United States and India

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems book series (LNNS,volume 695)


Content moderation is a relatively new occupation wherein reviewers peruse content produced by users of digital platforms to maintain its safety and decorum. Besides news reports, sparse empirical literature exists detailing the nuances of content moderators’ work life. This paper captures the subjective voices of content moderators in the United States (n = 16) and India (n = 16) using phenomenological interviews to unravel their experiences and work identity. Four theme clusters emerged through interpretative phenomenological analysis–Content (Variations in acclimatization; Mixed outcomes of content exposure), Individual and Home (Coming of age; Family vs. content), Team (Symbiotic relationship across team hierarchy; Team culture), and Client and Employer (Work targets and guideline inconsistencies; Culture of care). The themes revealed several similarities in both regional cohorts such as positive perceptions of the occupation, transformative self-growth, and centrality of team relations. Adjustment to content on the job, and effects of the timing of the study and place of work were two areas of differences between American and Indian moderators. The study evinces the scope and importance of the content moderation profession for individuals’ and society’s well-being, as well as makes recommendations for work policy and research.


  • Business process outsourcing
  • Content moderation
  • Digital safety
  • Interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • Social media

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We thank the participants for patiently sharing their stories with us. We also appreciate the operations, workforce management, and leadership teams for helping us conduct the study.

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Correspondence to Marlyn Thomas Savio .

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Savio, M.T., Bharucha, T., Steiger, M., Huang, X. (2024). “Social Media Police” and “Wonder Girl”: Phenomenological Accounts of Content Moderators’ Experiences in the United States and India. In: Yang, XS., Sherratt, R.S., Dey, N., Joshi, A. (eds) Proceedings of Eighth International Congress on Information and Communication Technology. ICICT 2023. Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems, vol 695. Springer, Singapore.

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