Black box or not: How LGBTQ+ content creators are holding tech giants’ algorithms accountable
Algorithmic bias, i.e. how algorithms implement discriminatory decisions towards LGBTQ+ communities through demonetization or erasure, has been increasingly criticized by scholars across disciplines (Noble 2018, Eubanks 2017). Few scholars, however, have looked at how social media users are themselves increasingly aware of the issue. In this context, this project aims to analyze how LGBTQ+ content creators on social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok understand algorithmic bias and address it. This is in dialogue with an important wave of scholarship interrogating how users are appropriating new technologies in ways not intended by private companies, particularly considering the amount of secrecy about their functioning. The goal of this project is to expand the necessary conversation about algorithmic bias by considering a social-movement perspective. This research interrogates how content creators are challenging algorithmic bias while still being active members of the platforms they perceive as discriminatory. Finally, the aim of this project is to bridge LGBTQ+ content creators’ mobilization with existing advocacy work against algorithmic bias. Methodologically, this project will mostly consist of a multi-modal online ethnography as well as online and in-person interviews with content creators. This research is particularly aligned with participatory action methodologies aiming at empowering LGBTQ+ communities’ voices in the process.
Alex Chartrand is a PhD student in Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. He works on algorithm-related controversies across social media platforms and how LGBTQ+ users are increasingly mobilizing against it. Precisely, he aims to identify how users and activists perceive algorithmic bias and how it shapes their repertoire of actions. Moreover, his research asks how users make sense of their activism while remaining active members of these social media platforms. Alex holds a master’s degree in political science from the Université de Montréal. In 2015 he was a visiting scholar at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where he researched LGBTQ+ social movements in Manila. Since 2017, Alex has been hosting the radio show Avez-vous du WiFi? on CISM public radio, which investigates digital media and new technology.