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Digital Refuse: Canadian Garbage, Commercial Content Moderation and the Global Circulation of Social Media’s Waste

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The story of a rogue Canadian garbage barge attempting to offload illegal garbage in the Philippines opens this article on techno-trash, in order to underline both the relationships between countries of the Global North with countries of the Global South in matters of waste, as well as to reframe discussions of techno-trash as fundamentally tied to material things. The definition of techno-trash is then expanded, to cover digital detritus created through an entirely digital set of practices I term “Commercial Content Moderation.” The attempt to offload mounds of e-waste and the similar ways in which a great deal of physical trash circulates around the globe are then directly connected to the kind of disposal that CCM workers do, increasingly undertaken in sites like the Philippines, the Business Process Outsourcing (or BPO) capital of world. Such e-waste arrives in the archipelago for dismantling, repurpose and storage, alongside outsourced CCM, work with many of the objects now deemed “waste” once crucial to the production of the very material for which CCM workers now screen and remove.

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