COVID-19 content moderation and platform accountability

Tuomas KJ Heikkilä, Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, Matti Pohjonen

Tutkimustuotos: KonferenssimateriaalitKonferenssiabstrakti


Covid-19 pandemic marks a shift in the way dominant social media platforms address misinformation they host. The recent and broad changes made to these companies’ moderation policy and product features have been introduced with a significant amount of public accounting justifying their need and purpose. This study examines how platforms discursively construct their social accountability in terms of the perceived misinformation problem during Covid-19.

Experimental studies suggest platform companies can develop meaningful tools and strategies tackling misleading information on their services, despite for long refusing to acknowledge this responsibility. While several companies recently began to prohibit health misinformation, legitimate concerns over their accuracy and motives persist amidst, for instance, the revelations of neglected language regions. We ask what discursive strategies platforms employ when publicly presenting their roles, rationales, and successes in disrupting Covid-19 misinformation. Using blog posts crawled from Meta, Google, and Twitter, and drawing from the concept of social accountability—account givers' social obligation to justify actions to citizens—we identify discursive justifications for Covid-19-related corporate action.

Preliminary results show that platforms frame Covid-19 misinformation with discourses distinct from other harmful content. Tracking documents over time, we observe an interesting similarity between many platforms’ initial justifications to reassign content moderation tasks from humans to algorithmic systems. Additionally, platforms follow a trend of expanding their moderation capabilities, from strict and oblique “hard” moderation towards less disruptive interventions. Platforms also show a tendency to define “misinformation problem” by their own terms, justifying (in)actions with internal investigations directly undermining watchdog reporting.
TilaJulkaistu - 23 huhtik. 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiEi sovellu
TapahtumaMedian ja viestinnän tutkimuksen päivät: Media ja vastuu - Turun yliopisto, Turku, Suomi
Kesto: 22 huhtik. 202223 huhtik. 2022


KonferenssiMedian ja viestinnän tutkimuksen päivät
LyhennettäMeVi 2022


Abstract presented on 23 April 2022 at Digitaalinen teknologia ja vastuullisuus Working group,


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