Content moderation counterfactuals: Examining existing practices that aim to keep the internet safe
Together, we’ll look at public health, human rights and the internet. We will be focused on a very practical and timely case study: how social media companies balance the rights to health and freedom of expression, addressing harms without silencing dissent. We will conduct a comparative policy analysis, look at specific examples of misinformation and how they’ve been addressed on different social media platforms, and explore how collaborations between journalists and public health researchers can improve existing processes.
While the spread of harmful health myths and misinformation is not new, it is spreading at alarming scales made possible through the digital social media environment. The response that a social media company can take to address harmful health misinformation is complex. Determining what information or content is available on a social media platform is implemented through a process called “content moderation,” defined by Sarah T. Roberts as the “organized practice of screening user-generated content (UGC) posted to Internet sites, social media and other online outlets, in order to determine the appropriateness of that content for a given site, locality or jurisdiction.” Content moderation policies have been used to prevent the spread of harmful and false myths about COVID-19, to reduce the reach of videos promoting violent extremism around the world, and to provide warnings for images that might be violent or graphic.
Nat Gyenes, MPH, leads Meedan’s Digital Health Lab, an initiative dedicated to addressing health information equity challenges, with a focus on the role that technology plays in mediating access to health through access to information. She received her master’s in public health from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, with a focus on equitable access to health information and human rights. As a research affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, she studies the ways in which health information sources and outputs can impact health outcomes. She lectures at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on Health, Media and Human Rights. Before joining Meedan, Nat worked at the MIT Media Lab as a health misinformation researcher.