WHEN ALGORITHMS THINK YOU WANT TO DIE: THE POWER AND POLITICS OF RECOMMENDATION SYSTEMS
Social media companies have once again found themselves at the centre of public debates about their ‘impact’ on young users’ mental health. This time, Instagram and Pinterest have been accused of helping to ‘kill’ 14-year-old British teenager Molly Russell (Crawford, 2019). Molly took her own life in 2017 and had been using Instagram and Pinterest to access content relating to depression and suicide. But it wasn’t just that Molly was searching for this content; it was being delivered to her by the platforms’ recommendation algorithms.
Social media platforms recommend content to their users in various ways. But recommendation algorithms ‘don’t discriminate’ (Gerrard and Gillespie, 2019): platforms will show you what they think you want to see, whether it contradicts their own Community Guidelines or not. This paper discusses the reflection, amplification and distortion of mental health content through recommendation algorithms and considers their role in the lives of social media users.
WHEN: 30 September 2019
TIME: 6.00pm - 7.30pm
VENUE: Monash Conference Centre, Level 7, 30 Collins St, Melbourne
Dr. Ysabel Gerrard is a Lecturer in Digital Media and Society at the University of Sheffield. She is the current Book Reviews Editor of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, the Vice Chair of the European Communication Research and Education Association’s (ECREA) Digital Culture and Communication Section, and a former Intern at the Social Media Collective, Microsoft Research New England. Ysabel is interested in the intersection between identity and technology and has published some of her research in New Media and Society, the Journal of Communication Inquiry and First Monday. She has also spoken on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and BBC World Service, and her research has been featured in outlets like WIRED and The Guardian.