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W&L Student Co-Authors Paper Published Online by Sage Journals Katie Yurechko ’24 presented research related to content creators circumventing TikTok’s content moderation algorithms.

thumbnail_Katie-Yurechko-600x400 W&L Student Co-Authors Paper Published Online by Sage JournalsKatie Yurechko ’24

Washington and Lee University student Katie Yurechko ’24 co-authored a paper titled “You Can (Not) Say What you Want: Using Algospeak to Contest and Evade Algorithmic Content Moderation on TikTok,” which was recently featured online in “Social Media and Society” published by Sage Journals.

The article focuses on how TikTok content creators increasingly utilize algospeak to circumvent unjust content restrictions. In doing so, these creators often change or invent new words, or replace words with emojis or gestures seeking to prevent TikTok’s content moderation algorithm from banning their videos.

Yurechko and her co-authors, Ella Steen, a student at Gordon College, and Daniel Klug, a systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, interviewed 19 TikTok creators about their motivations and practices of using algospeak in relation to their experience with TikTok’s content moderation.

“Being the first team across the globe to define algospeak from an academic research perspective was deeply rewarding,” said Yurechko. “However, it was even more rewarding to unveil the connection between algospeak and the unjust restriction of identity-based content regarding race, gender and more that is disproportionately faced by marginalized communities. This finding countered common assumptions that anyone attempting to outmaneuver online content moderation is seeking to promote harm and therefore deserves punishment. Excitingly, our work provides a jumping-off point for future researchers to intervene in unjust algorithmic practices to make social media a more just space.”

A computer science and philosophy double major with a minor in poverty and human capability, Yurechko is committed to supporting marginalized communities and promoting diversity in computing. The Johnson Scholar from Havre de Grace, Maryland presented on the practices of marginalized communities on TikTok last spring at the Association for Computing Machinery Web Conference in Austin, Texas. Her partners for the presentation were Steen and Klug, with whom she has conducted research through Carnegie Mellon’s Software and Societal Systems Department.

Yurechko has participated in the Google Computer Science Research Mentorship Program and she is a member of the University of Washington’s AccessComputing team. On campus, she serves as president of Nabors Service League, co-president of the Volunteer Venture Program, and vice president of The Campus Kitchen.

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