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Trust and Safety: Data and the Business of Trust-Making

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Doubt in political institutions appears to be soaring. Trust in technology seem to be growing. What might explain this divergence? This paper examines the work and historical evolution of ‘trust and safety’ teams in Bay Area technology firms. Via ethnographic research, I illustrate the ways that ‘techies’ gather and organise data as a means to build and maintain trust in online platforms. Through machine learning, selective display of images and content, and with a deep and abiding concern with accurate and automated prediction of ‘false-positives’, as well as pervasive overlaps with state technologies and weaknesses, ‘Trust and Safety’ work illustrates how and why we are less likely to doubt technology, the internet and their everyday uses. ‘T&S’ operates as a political infrastructure that is rarely visible but always present in a positive ‘UX’ user experience, the most mundane and unexceptional process of legitimising technology and capitalism as a political system

This talk is part of the Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography series.

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