Flagging as a silencing tool: exploring the relationship between de-platforming of sex and online abuse on Instagram and TikTok

Carolina Are*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This study examines the unintended consequences of Instagram and TikTok’s flagging functionality through a qualitative survey gathering the experiences of users who post content related to sex work, sexuality or nudity and who believed they were de-platformed following malicious reporting by other accounts. Using negative comments on de-platformed users' profiles as an indicator of malicious flagging and through a World Risk Society Framework, this paper explores the relationship between flagging and de-platforming, connecting the former's unintended outcomes with the opacity and inequalities of platforms’ governance of nudity and sex. This study finds that, coupled with platforms’ lack of transparency over content moderation decisions and with an inadequate appeals system, flagging can be misused in a vigilante fashion to silence creators of nude and sexual content due to the heightened censorship they face. This generates more risks for these users, who lose work and networks and become exposed to account recovery scams.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media and Society
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Jan 2024

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