Public Interest Groups Ask Social Media Platforms To Preserve Data Regarding COVID-19 Content Moderation For Future Study

from the 'twould-be-useful dept

Over the last month or so, we've written plenty on the challenges of social media companies managing content moderation in the midst of a pandemic, highlighting the challenges when misinformation is coming from official sources, when it's impossible to distinguish legit info from misinformation, when the intersection of politics and misinformation gets tricky, and, of course, when platforms have to rely more on AI while all their workers are working from home (raising significant privacy concerns if they're still moderating content).

In the long run, what happened over the last couple months is going to represent a truly fascinating place to look for case studies about content moderation on the internet -- but only if the data is available. To that end, a bunch of public interest groups, led by CDT, have put out an open letter asking social media platforms to preserve as much as possible about the content moderation decisions they're making and to be as transparent as possible for future research:

The importance of accurate information during this pandemic is clear. But knowledge about the novel coronavirus is rapidly evolving. This is also an unprecedented opportunity to study how online information flows ultimately affect health outcomes, and to evaluate the macro- and micro-level consequences of relying on automation to moderate content in a complex and evolving information environment. But such studies rely on information that your companies control–including information you are automatically blocking and removing from your services. It is essential that platforms preserve this data so that it can be made available to researchers and journalists and included in your transparency reports. The data will be invaluable to those working in public health, human rights, science and academia. It will be crucial to develop safeguards to address the privacy issues raised by new or longer data retention and by the sharing of information with third parties, but the need for immediate preservation is urgent.

We, the undersigned organizations, institutions, and researchers, urge you to:

  1. Immediately commit to preserving all data on content removal during the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to information about which takedowns did not receive human review, whether users tried to appeal the takedown (when that information is available), and reports that were not acted upon.
  2. Preserve all content that the platform is automatically blocking or removing, including individual posts, videos, images, and entire accounts.
  3. Produce transparency reports that include information about content blocking and removal related to COVID-19
  4. Provide access to this data in the future to researchers and journalists, recognizing that privacy will need to be ensured.

Hopefully the various platforms will agree to this.

Filed Under: content moderation, content moderation at scale, covid-19, social media, studies, transparency


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