Conformity of Eating Disorders through Content Moderation

Jessica L. Feuston, Alex S. Taylor, Anne Marie Piper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


For individuals with mental illness, social media platforms are considered spaces for sharing and connection. However, not all expressions of mental illness are treated equally on these platforms. Different aggregates of human and technical control are used to report and ban content, accounts, and communities. Through two years of digital ethnography, including online observation and interviews, with people with eating disorders, we examine the experience of content moderation. We use a constructivist grounded theory approach to analysis that shows how practices of moderation across different platforms have particular consequences for members of marginalized groups, who are pressured to conform and compelled to resist. Above all, we argue that platform moderation is enmeshed with wider processes of conformity to specific versions of mental illness. Practices of moderation reassert certain bodies and experiences as 'normal' and valued, while rejecting others. At the same time, navigating and resisting these normative pressures further inscribes the marginal status of certain individuals. We discuss changes to the ways that platforms handle content related to eating disorders by drawing on the concept of multiplicity to inform design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW1
StatePublished - May 28 2020


  • conformity
  • content moderation
  • digital ethnography
  • eating disorders
  • mental illness
  • multiplicity
  • online communities
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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