Social Humans is a set of labels dedicated to empowering content creators and informing researchers about user intent.


Social Humans is a label system created to address ethical issues in social media use by archives and academia. The legal constraints of social media platforms for data reuse have proven insufficient for expressing the intent and wishes of content creators or protecting vulnerable and marginalized communities in these spaces. These labels seek to address that gap.

SH Labels empower content creators to indicate if and how they want their data to be used, above and beyond the legal use described in policies of for profit social media companies.

SH-A Labels allow archivists and academics to share contextual information determined in data analysis that may be useful for researchers to consider before using social media data in their work.

Next Steps

The Social Humans labels will be tested and refined with diverse communities throughout 2019. Future prospective work includes building an application for content creators to authenticate using their social media accounts to add SH Labels to content, developing guidelines and best practices for archives to implement policies around the labels, and expanding/modifying labels for specific community practice.

Support and Thanks

This project was developed by Alexandra Dolan-Mescal during a Summer 2018 fellowship at Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and I greatly appreciate their financial and intellectual support. The early concept of social media labels was developed with colleagues at Documenting the Now, who have spent years researching ethical and technical issues in social media archiving. Their support and guidance has been a foundational bedrock from which to work. Local Contexts' Traditional Knowledge labels provided a shining example of what a community-driven, ethics-oriented label project can be.

Social Humans is practicing:

  • Transparency
  • Communication
  • Contextualization
  • Ethical Design

to create more ethical archives.