Trauma-informed social media: Towards solutions for reducing and healing online harm

Scott, C. F., Marcu, G., Anderson, R. E., Newman, M. W., & Schoenebeck, S. (2023, February 10). Trauma-informed social media: Towards solutions for reducing and healing online harm. Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’23), Hamburh, Germany.


Open access: No

Notes: “Imagine a world where social media platforms . . . had a mandate of proactively promoting healing and well-being instead of reacting to harm as it happens. And imagine if social media design strategies and moderation policies more explicitly considered group, community, and societal inequities and trauma and, in doing, attempted to prevent harm or the likelihood of re-traumatization for all, including themselves” (p. 15). This is, in short, the invitation that Scott et al. extend in their paper. By drawing from trauma theory, the authors argue that it is critically important to implement a trauma-centric approach toward the design, implementation, and moderation of social media platforms. In doing so, they explain how different types of trauma (e.g., individual, developmental, historical, racial) are manifested and encountered on social media. In response, they argue that these types of trauma could then lead to a corresponding design and moderation that foregrounds six principles: 1) Safety, 2) trustworthiness and transparency, 3) peer support, 4) collaboration, 5) empowerment voice and choice, and 6) cultural historical and gender issues.

Abstract: Social media platforms exacerbate trauma, and many users experience various forms of trauma unique to them (e.g., doxxing and swatting). Trauma is the psychological and physical response to experiencing a deeply disturbing event. Platforms’ failures to address trauma threaten users’ well-being globally, especially amongst minoritized groups. Platform policies also expose moderators and designers to trauma through content they must engage with as part of their jobs (e.g., child sexual abuse). We consider how a trauma-informed approach might help address or decrease the likelihood of (re)experiencing trauma online. A trauma-informed approach to social media recognizes that everyone likely has a trauma history and that trauma is experienced at the individual, secondary, collective, and cultural levels. This paper proceeds by detailing trauma and its impacts. We then describe how the six trauma-informed principles can be applied to social media design, content moderation, and companies. We conclude by offering recommendations that balance platform responsibility and accountability with well-being and healing for all.

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