Metaphors in moderation

Joseph Seering, Geoff Kaufman, Stevie Chancellor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


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)
Pages (from-to)621-640
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Jina Yoon and Tony Wang for assisting with interviews, and Alice Fang for doing the design of Figure 1. We would also like to thank Michael Bernstein, Bob Kraut, and Jason Hong for feedback as committee members. Finally, we would like to thank April Sperry, Nancy Cable, Warren Seering, and Adam Seering for feedback on drafts, as well as many others who shared general thoughts about the topic. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Metaphors in moderation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this