Recently, the Verge published a look inside one of Facebook’s deals with a content moderating contractor. Facebook hires these moderators to screen posts reported by users for violating their community standards. These moderators look at reported posts and decide whether to delete or allow them. Author Casey Newton was able to convince some former Facebook moderators, who are generally prohibited from discussing their work by NDAs, to tell her about their experiences. Their stories are deeply upsetting; they are routinely forced to witness extreme violence, constantly monitored and held to incredibly high standards for speed and accuracy. Accuracy is determined by how often moderators’ decisions agree with the decisions of slightly more senior moderators; more senior moderators are given a random sample of a regular moderators’ processed posts and asked to make their own judgments. At Cognizant, for example, moderators must be “accurate” at least 95% of the time. Within the Cognizant work site Newton examines, some moderators have responded to constant exposure to the worst of Facebook by buying into the conspiracy theories. One person genuinely believes the earth is flat, another has become convinced that 9/11 was not a legitimate terrorist attack, and another denies that the Holocaust took place.
On Saturday, President Trump announced his intention to issue an executive order requiring American universities to maintain “free speech” on their campuses and threatened to withdraw federal funding from noncompliant institutions. Practical considerations aside – it’s not clear how this plan would be enacted – Trump’s message should trouble Stanford students because of the ways it mischaracterizes the state of free speech at schools like our own. These mischaracterizations feed into a narrative that has the potential to stifle, rather than protect, free speech on Stanford’s campus.
Despite advertising itself as a university that values diversity, equity, and inclusion on official websites and recruitment materials, students of color at Stanford often have a difficult time finding spaces where we actually feel included. Historically, students of color have have experienced violence and racism on this campus, necessitating safer, more inclusive spaces for these students. Recognizing a need for spaces dedicated specifically to center the experiences and healing of students from historically marginalized communities navigating Stanford, students advocated for the Ethnic Community Centers and Ethnic Theme Dorms we have today. The four Ethnic Theme Dorms (Muwekma, Okada, Casa Zapata, and Ujamaa) serve as spaces where students of color know that they will not only be included, but will be celebrated for their diverse backgrounds with an opportunity to engage critically in issues that affect communities of color. Ethnic Theme Associates (ETAs) serve as pillars of the Ethnic Theme Dorms, cultivating a community that engages in academic discourse, dialogue across difference, and the unpacking of political issues with personal ramifications. For us, these conversations are not just abstract academic concepts — they are discussions about, and informed by, our very own lived experiences. Given the normalization of racism and intolerance in today’s political climate, our communities are under attack more than ever, and the very existence of our ETA position and our dorm communities have been questioned and invalidated.
“What matters to you, and why?” is the famous short-essay question we all answered to get into Stanford. But consider this different question: “what matters, and why?”
Contact Julia Gong at jxgong ‘at’ stanford.edu.
What do Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci have in common? Before you say ‘the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ I’ll point out another similarity that I’ve been thinking about recently — they all had patrons who funded and supported their art. Which means that, in a nutshell, they weren’t writing applications and scouring the…
When I was seven years old, we went for a lot of family drives in our white Toyota civic. Occasionally, my dad would swing into the local McDonald’s outside WestMall. I’d order chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce, fries and a chocolate milkshake. When we got home, I dumped the nuggets in my pink bowl and we’d sit around the table munching on our meals. When McDonald’s left Trinidad in 2003, I was disappointed. Now they’re back, and I wish they’d stayed away.
In the article “Hoover panel talks tech, security” (February 26, 2019) former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead is reported to have made the ludicrous statement that U.S. military intervention in El Salvador was a strategic success.