Impact of Content Moderation Practices and Technologies on Access and Diversity
67 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2023
Date Written: January 31, 2023
This Report presents the results of research carried out as part of Work Package 6 “Intermediaries: Copyright Content Moderation and Removal at Scale in the Digital Single Market: What Impact on Access to Culture?” of the project “ReCreating Europe”, particularly on Tasks 6.3 (Evaluating Legal Frameworks on the Different Levels (EU vs. national, public vs. private) and 6.4 (Measuring the impact of moderation practices and technologies on access and diversity). This work centers on a normative analysis of the existing public and private legal frameworks with regard to intermediaries and cultural diversity, and on the actual impact on intermediaries’ content moderation on diversity.
Chapter 2 deals with the evaluation of legal frameworks on the different levels. First, the chapter expands on the assessment of the regulatory environment and revisits the starting point for access to culture and the creation of cultural value. It introduces a concept of “Rough Justice”, which acknowledges the difficulties and differences vis-à-vis a full “fair trial” setup and proposes conceptualization in the context of procedural rules, substantive rules and competences. A second starting point for the legal evaluation is provided in analysing and evaluating the framework for quality of automated copyright content moderation as put forward in the CDSM Directive and the Digital Services Act in light of erroneous decisions. It is suggested that decision quality should be a decisive factor that is to be seen as a separate perspective from ex post mitigation mechanisms. It also analyses the benchmark put forward in the sector specific CDSM Directive and the horizontal Digital Services Act. A third perspective relates to the aspect that copyright content moderation increasingly requires an understanding of contextual use and the potential risk of “bias carry-over” from datasets to content moderation. It is suggested that the question bias mitigation and access to copyright data should increasingly be addressed in the regulatory framework.
Chapter 3 describes our efforts to measure the impact of copyright content moderation on access and diversity. We start this chapter by presenting existing research in the field and by discussing options to investigate these complex questions. On these grounds, we explain our research design consisting of three empirical sub-studies, and then present the results of this work. In the first sub-study we investigate aggregated data on copyright and content moderation published by platforms themselves, often in the form of transparency reports; secondly, we analyse content level data with regard to the sustaining availability and the diversity of content on social media platforms; and thirdly we present results from in-depth interviews with cultural creators with regard to their experiences with copyright content moderation. Overall, the results indicate a strong impact of copyright regulation and content moderation on diversity, and potentially an impact that leads to a decrease in diversity of content. Yet, the research has also shown that these interpretations cannot be fully verified based on the limited data that is available to researchers and the public.
Chapter 4 presents joint conclusion based on the evaluation of the existing legal frameworks as well as existing practices and technologies. We particularly highlight the need for further research on issues of diversity and access on social media platforms, given its high relevance for European societies, and at the same time its complex nature, specifically in the context of contemporary fragmented media landscapes. We conclude with a strong call for robust mandatory data access clauses in future regulations.
Keywords: Content moderation, intermediaries, online platforms, digital single market, Digital Services Act, terms and conditions, copyright
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