Tagging in — a project to support social media admins and moderators
In 2022, four Otago University academics embarked on a research project aimed at understanding the roles of social media admins and moderators. It resulted in the publication of a 27-page resource, containing input from people across Aotearoa who work within the space.
Social media admins and moderators deal with a huge variety of issues, some with very high-stakes. They often play key leadership roles in our communities, dealing with issues that range from hate or dangerous speech, to mental health crises, to bullying or personal attacks, to scammers, to potentially dangerous misinformation.
As well as finding themselves involved in an often thankless task, admins are also often overworked, under-resourced, and volunteering unpaid.
The Tagging In team identified that there was a lack of training, funding, networks, resources, and mentoring available to those working within this space and decided to do something about it.
Using funding from a community grant from InternetNZ, the quartet set about recording and analysing the experiences of moderators and admins. Susan Wardell is one of the researchers leading the project:
“The grant was just what we needed – some seed money to get it off the ground. The focus on community-embedded work encouraged us to think about something meaningful and practical, while still utilising our skills as researchers.”
The group ran a series of interviews and a successful hui in July last year, conducting discussions and discovering the core issues facing those working in the moderator/administrator space.
“Dangerous speech and hate speech affect a lot of different communities. Much of the focus, in legislation, policy-making, and public discussion, is on racism and the experiences of ethnic or religious minority groups. That’s a massively important topic!”
The researchers decided to add to this by focusing on some of the communities they were embedded in themselves, that also experience harmful speech online - leading them to interview admins from queer, LGBTQIA, Rainbow, gender diverse, disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent groups.
The Tagging in Team - Melanie Beres, Susan Wardell, Cassie Withey-Rila, and Fairleigh Gilmour.
After gathering all of the feedback from participants, the group set about creating a free online guide for anyone to use. The result is Tagging In: A Resource for Social Media Admins and Moderators.
“The more we talked together, they were able to recognise just how much knowledge and expertise they were holding, from all that they’d experienced and had to navigate. It’s exciting to now see the admins, who we worked with to create the resource, sharing and promoting it themselves.”
Complete with illustrations, diagrams, charts, and infographics, the guide is easy to read and breaks down for people working across a broad range of industries.
“It reflects our aim for the project – not to peddle our own ideas or advice, but rather to be a conduit for gathering up the hard-won wisdom that admins and mods already have, and bringing it together in an accessible format.”
Illustrations and design for the project were done by Becky Lazarević, of Studio Rebeko.