Commercial Content Moderation during the Pandemic

FRI, MAY 8, 2020 (59:40)

In this week’s episode of BIG, If True, our host Joan Donovan, PhD asks: should we trust our search engines? Have joint industry efforts – led by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and LinkedIn – to limit misinformation been successful? How are new content policies specific to COVID-19 being enforced? And if so, at what cost?

As we clumsily shift our lives online, the cracks in the information infrastructure are bursting open. While there’s been an uptick in boosting trusted content by credible sources, like the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, there has simultaneously been sweeping purges of advertisements seeking to capitalize on the crisis and suspicious accounts, leaving us to wonder who’s heard and who’s harmed in the current infodemic. Amidst this sliding scale of uncertainty, we turn to leading voices in the field, UCLA professors Safiya Umoja Noble, PhD and Sarah T. Roberts, PhD and Washington Post Reporter, Elizabeth Dwoskin, who have been taking stock of how commercial content is being moderated during the pandemic.

Registration for this event is required, details on how to join the webinar will be sent to registered participants before the event. Register here.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

+ BIO: Elizabeth Dwoskin

Elizabeth Dwoskin, a Silicon Valley correspondent at The Washington Post, covers the rise of data mining, machine learning and AI throughout the tech industry and in the economy at large. Dwoskin’s recent articles – from smartphone apps that map infection pathways to new trends in consumer habits that give way to greater market monopolization – offer readers around the world fresh insight on what’s at play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

+ BIO: Sarah Roberts

Sarah T. Roberts serves as an Assistant Professor of Information Studies at UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. Roberts is a leading authority on “commercial content moderation”, the term she coined to describe the work of those responsible for making sure the photos, videos and stories posted to commercial websites fit within legal, ethical and the site’s own guidelines and standards.

Her book, Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media, was released on Yale University Press in 2019.

+ BIO: Safiya Umoja Noble

Safiya Umoja Noble is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the Department of Information Studies and serves as the Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. She is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in search engines titled: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.

+ BIO: Joan Donovan

Dr. Donovan is a leading public scholar and disinformation researcher, specializing in media manipulation, political movements, critical internet studies, and online extremism. She is the Research Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and the Director of the Technology and Social Change project (TaSC). Through TaSC, Dr. Donovan explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns.

Dr. Donovan is co-founder of Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review. Her research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Information, Communication & Society, and Social Studies of Science. She is a columnist at MIT Technology Review, a regular contributor to the New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and PBS, and is quoted often on radio and in print.

Dr. Donovan has laid out the philosophical frameworks for how to research, report on, and understand this moment in internet history and American politics. Her conceptualizations of strategic silence, meme wars, and media manipulation campaigns provide crucial frameworks for understanding how the US got to this point. She coined many of the terms that the disinformation research field and mainstream media use to understand technology’s impact on society.

Dr. Donovan is the co-creator of the beaver emoji.

Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
Big, If True Series On Tech & The Pandemic