User-generated content: the user as a worker – digital


Let’s start with two reports from the past week that at first glance have nothing to do with each other. Recently there has been a new means of combating false information on the Internet. In order to combat fake news, Twitter users now have the option of checking conspicuous content themselves and providing information on the context in a test program run by the company. Anyone who reports a questionable tweet is first asked why the content appears misleading and how great the damage that could be caused. Other users can rate this reaction and vote whether it is helpful and truthful.

Birdwatch is the name of the pilot project. After the in-house efforts have practically not paid off, the community is now relying on the fight against fake news. No AI that automatically searches through millions of entries in a very short time, and no professional fact-checking team: It is up to the individual user to ensure a pleasant environment on the portal.

The second message reached us last week from New York. There the software developer Huge Ma was so frustrated with the technical hurdles that he quickly programmed his own solution when he wanted to arrange a vaccination appointment for his mother. Seniors in particular, who would be the first to be vaccinated, can hardly cope with the unnecessarily complicated forms and the opaque technology.

Ma’s website,, evaluates more than 40 vaccination portals, and anyone who registers will be informed immediately if a new vaccination date should become available. The programmer worked on the project in his spare time and in the evenings. Everyone has their role to play in the pandemic, Ma told the New York Timesthat he is only doing as much as he can to make it a little easier.

What was once perceived as a liberation by the user is increasingly becoming a necessity

Such stories show that nowadays it is increasingly up to the individual to ensure a pleasant information environment or functioning systems. Failing institutions, regardless of whether they are incompetent authorities or disinterested companies, outsource their responsibility to the individual.

In earlier and probably simpler times this was called crowdsourcing. User-generated content was the big promise in the mid-noughties. After spending the rest of the story in the shadow of social gatekeepers, the individual user finally had the opportunity for unfiltered self-representation. What was once perceived as a liberation by the user is increasingly becoming a necessity. In the neoliberal system, personal initiative is preached as the highest civic duty and the most noble characteristic, in return prosperity and social participation were promised. The net is just the newest venue for this commandment. But neither corporations, whose task it is to offer their customers a functioning product, nor a state whose inherent purpose was to take care of its citizens at some point, seem to be extremely interested in providing something in return .

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