user-generated censorship | MIT Center for Civic Media

A Brief Guide To User-Generated Censorship

This post is a brief overview of my master's thesis.

In June 2011, as heat and hardship both beat down on Britain, progressive activists proposed a general strike to protest austerity measures. They created a website at, posted information about the strike, and launched a publicity campaign through social media, focusing especially on sharing links through Facebook.

It’s easy to understand why. Facebook’s News Feed does more than just capture and redistribute eyeballs: like the front page of a major newspaper, it also articulates an agenda, assembling a summary digest of important events. “As more and more is shared,” wrote engineer Peter Deng after Facebook repositioned the News Feed in the user’s home page, “we want you to be able to find out everything that is going on in the world around you.” It's a vision of social media as a kind of map, as an atlas informing users of worthwhile destinations and providing routes, in the form of links, through which they may be reached.