Coined by Tele-Communications Inc. creator, John Malone, the Walled Garden refers to the curated content that flows through platforms and apps that the ‘garden owners’, such as Facebook, Instagram and app stores control. These garden owners control and censor all aspects of their content, conduct surveillance on their users and, of course, collect and distribute our metadata as they please (Mitew, 2014). The Walled Garden is a concept that embodies and openly engages with the notion of closed platforms, a far cry from the open fields of cyberspace.
These garden owners use moderators to regulate and essentially control what content and applications we access and how we view them – they are an integral part of the Walled Garden. So who determines these rules and regulations for walled gardens like Instagram, Facebook and app stores? How do they determine what should be ‘walled’ and what has the right to reign free?
SBS’ The Feed investigated the inconsistencies of moderation on Instagram and found two regulation policies, the first being from the Basic Terms and the second from a leaked Abuse Standards Violation document that garden owners, Facebook and Instagram, hire moderators to use:
- You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.
- Naked ‘private parts’, including female nipple bulges and naked butt cracks; male nipples are ok.
‘Free the nipple’ arguments aside, the first policy is addressed to the users of Instagram. This is an example of the control and censoring of content that is structured into how we are able to navigate these gardens. These are the rules we are to follow or we face being left out. The second point is where the inconsistencies and global context of these garden owners are further exposed. The ‘Abuse Standards Violation’ document, which was leaked by outsourcing company oDesk, revealed to be a 13 page manual for those in developing nations to decipher and regulate at the rate of $1 an hour (Arthur, 2012). This ‘manual’ can be interpreted in varying ways as the description for offensive content could be as vague as ‘camel toe’ or ‘moose knuckles’ (The Feed, 2014).
With these inconsistencies and varying forms of regulation, we start to see where it gets muddled. For example, the following images have been banned from Instagram for displaying nipples (yes, I am referring to the cartoon) and partial nudity:
While these following images, that clearly display ‘pornographic or sexually suggestive’ images and partial nudity, have not been removed:
While we do have the opportunity to create our own form of regulation by reporting images as we see them, our power is limited to content that has already passed through the Basic Terms and the Abuse Standards Violation. The moderators behind the walls are the ones who have the first and final word.
We are mere consumers in the walled garden – a garden that uses arbitrary guidelines and enlists outsourced workers on below minimum wage to determine what is to be filtered and what is ‘allowed’. Sure, I don’t like this system, but where else is there to go? Afterall, everyone is here (Mitew, 2014).
Arthur, C (2012). Facebook’s nudity and violence guidelines are laid bare. The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/feb/21/facebook-nudity-violence-censorship-guidelines [Accessed 07 September 2014].
Janssen, C. Definition – What does Walled Garden mean?. Techopedia, [Online]. Available at:http://www.techopedia.com/definition/2541/walled-garden-technology [Accessed 07 September 2014].
Mitew, T (2014), iFeudals: big data, surveillance, permission control. [Online Video]. 1 September. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1IEq3uHKh8&list=UU2RaUOoqFYKBjm0JQ4gwzHQ [Accessed: 02 September 2014]
SBS2. (2014). Sexism & Social Media. [Online Video]. 28 July. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6wWjGk9Ij8&list=UUTILfqEQUVaVKPkny8QRE0w. [Accessed: 07 September 2014].