Social media’s canaries: content moderators between digital labor and mediated trauma

Amit Pinchevski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper takes recent PTSD claims by content moderators working for Microsoft and Google as a starting point to discuss the changing nature of trauma in the context of social media and algorithmic culture. Placing these claims in the longer history of how media came to be regarded by clinicians as potentially traumatic, it considers content moderation as a form of immaterial labor, which brings the possibility to be traumatized into the cycle of digital labor. Therefore, to the extent that content moderators’ trauma exists as a clinical condition, it cannot be taken as an incidental side-effect but as a built-in potentiality. It is about the commodification of traumatic vulnerability itself. The discussion then proceeds to speculate about the possibility of using algorithms to identify potentially traumatic content and what would that mean for the understanding of trauma, especially as a mediated experience.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)212-221
Number of pages10
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • PTSD
  • algorithmic culture
  • content moderation
  • digital labor
  • immaterial labor
  • media and trauma
  • social media


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