Sarah T. Roberts, UCLA associate professor of information studies, has been elected to Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society. The co-director of the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at UCLA, Roberts is honored for her research on the workforce of commercial content moderation and the impact of the internet on society and everyday life. She was inducted into Sigma Xi in December and was honored in a virtual ceremony on March 18.
Professor Roberts founded the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at UCLA with Safiya Noble, UCLA associate professor of information studies. Roberts is the principal investigator of a study funded by a $1.5 million Future of Work grant from the National Science Foundation on decision-making processes and supports for tech workers who moderate online content.
Roberts is the author of “Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media,” the first ethnographic study of the commercial content moderation industry. Drawing on interviews with workers in the U.S. and across the globe working in small firms and major social media companies, Roberts’ book offers important context about an industry that has operated largely in the shadows, examining troubling labor practices and the emotional toll that the labor of removing the worst of the internet can take on its workers.
In 2018, Roberts convened the “All Things in Moderation” symposium at UCLA, gathering scholars, experts, journalists and other stakeholders to closely examine the social, political, legal and cultural impacts of commercial content moderation.
Roberts is a sought-after source across print, television and online media, including Wired Magazine, Al Jazeera America, TV Ontario, TRT World, El Mundo, the London Free Press and the Los Angeles Times. She has served as a media consultant for Showtime, Netflix, Radiolab, Vice and for the 2018 documentary “The Cleaners,” an award-winning film about commercial content moderation in the Philippines.
Roberts is a member of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, the Association of Internet Researchers, the International Association for Media and Communication Research, the Society for the History of Technology and the Union for Democratic Communications. She is a 2018 Carnegie fellow and a 2018 winner of the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award.