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Frauke Rohden

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Fixing toxic online discussions – local solutions to global problems?

The digital transformation and spread of social media platforms have created amazing opportunities for many-to-many communication. At the same time, however, platforms and users are struggling to deal with issues of polarization, misinformation, and toxic debates. While most large platforms have reluctantly introduced guidelines and moderation and reporting tools, these cover only a narrow range of the problematic aspects of online discussions. Some bottom-up initiatives have emerged aiming to improve online debate culture. These groups have had to navigate ‘glocal’ tensions, dealing with global platforms, audiences, and issues on the one hand, but having to account for local laws, languages, and debates on the other hand. To explore how they navigate these tensions, I suggest a comparative analysis of the English (UK), German, and Swedish (the founding organization) branches of the #IAmHere movement. With a background in science and technology studies (STS) and internet research, I will use a combination of digital and virtual methods to study online documents and social media activities of the groups. I plan to develop a participatory data analysis approach similar to the concept of data sprints (Munk et al., 2019) that is suitable for the distributed and asynchronous participation modes of the groups to help both researchers and participants in those groups to better understand and contextualize their work.

This study will contribute to a better understanding of interrelated social and media effects of social media platforms and platform vernaculars (Gibbs et al., 2015) and how they can be employed to foster civil discussion. Relating to internet governance and management of online communities, I will place a particular emphasis on untangling how organizations can navigate the tensions between local and small-scale versus global and large-scale aspects of social media content moderation.

Main Research Topic

  • Social Media

Frauke Rohden

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Fellow at CAIS from April to September 2023