The parameters of what is deemed as acceptable content by social media platforms is undergoing constant moderation. But each paid post is regulated as per the contract advertisers sign during purchase. The contract lays out the rights and responsibilities of the social media company and the advertiser. A new book analyzes these contracts and the types of content moderation they employ.
Author Tarleton Gillespie is an Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Communication and also the Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. In his latest publication “Custodians of the Internet – Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media”, Gillespie wrestles with the evolution of social media platforms, their present state and how prone to conflict they have proven to be.
Is content moderation constitutional? How essential is content moderation to the functioning of the platforms? Are these types of social media contracts beneficial for democracy or not?
On November 6, 2018, Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society hosted Gillespie in an event that included a fascinating discussion of his book. The event was presented by Clinical Instructional Fellow at the Cyberlaw, Kendra Albert.
In the discussion, Gillespie is able to present his in-depth of critique of how and when platform moderation comes into place today. Gillespie iterated that transparency and education within social media companies is pivotal and cites the case of the banning of the controversial journalist Alex Jones as a case where social media abuse. Here is the even description offered by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society:
In this talk, author Tarleton Gillespie discusses how social media platforms police what we post online – and the societal impact of these decisions. He flips the story to argue that content moderation is not ancillary to what platforms do; it is essential, definitional, and constitutional. Given that, the very fact of moderation should change how we understand what platforms are.
The event lasted about an hour and twelve minutes. Take a look!