Deplatforming for democracy

Threats to democracies across the world are growing, and rejecting anti-democratic behavior will require strong institutions.

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Speech and accountability

On Monday, Daniel Kreiss and Shannon McGregor published a column in Wired expanding on CITAP’s public comment to the Facebook Oversight Board on the company’s decision to ban Donald Trump from the platform. They consider Facebook’s stated commitments to free expression and electoral integrity, the company’s own community standards, and conclude that Facebook must draw the line at attempts to undermine democratic processes:

To those who worry about the private power of companies to regulate political speech, we hear you. But it’s important to remember all it took to get to this point. As Facebook’s Civil Rights Audit demonstrated, the company often failed to fulfill its obligations to protect the democratic voices of its most vulnerable users, favoring instead the anti-democratic speech of the powerful such as Trump. Indeed, Facebook has not only long erred on the side of valuing freedom of expression, especially for world leaders, it took a months long campaign by a sitting president to undermine the legitimacy of the election, subvert ballot accountability, and create the context where his supporters attacked the US Capitol for the company to take decisive action to enforce its own policies.

The danger here is that if the Oversight Board does not uphold Trump’s ban, it will set a precedent of valuing political elites’ expression over the right of the public to self-govern in countries across the world.

Read it in Wired

Studying political ad bans

The Duke Center on Science and Technology Policy put out a new study this week looking into the effects of social media networks’ political ad bans—and the data access challenges that limit outside review of these policies. Co-authored by CITAP affiliate Matt Perault and J. Scott Brennan, the report recommends new transparency measures that platforms and the Federal Election Commission could take to improve our understanding of online political advertising.

As the Washington Post summed it up:

“Duke researchers want Washington to change rules so that political organizations have to report how advertising agencies are spending on their behalf. Currently political campaigns have to disclose that they paid an agency or consulting firm, and researchers can’t see how those firms are spending the money. This makes it challenging for researchers to tell whether the ad bans were effective – and how they impacted political discourse.”

Read the report

Recent publications and appearances

“It's clearly sending a signal, whether it's intentional or not, to other reporters: ‘Don't cover protests in Des Moines.’” David Ardia was quoted by USA Today in an article about a journalist still facing charges after she was arrested this summer while covering racial justice protests.

“The difference between parents who can afford to hire nannies, teachers or tutors for their children and those who cannot will manifest in greater educational inequality along lines of race, class and income level.” Alice Marwick’s remarks for a recent Pew/Elon survey were quoted by EdNC.

Deen Freelon, Alice Marwick, and Daniel Kreiss’s 2020 paper on false equivalencies was cited in a Teen Vogue article on performative social media activism.

Shannon McGregor appeared in a panel discussion on “The Changing Landscape of Social Media and the Influence on Politics,” which was hosted and profiled by the Hussman School of Journalism.

Deen Freelon pointed out differences in how vaccine hesitancy is covered in the media versus how prevalent it is in different communities:

Coming soon

On March 11, Deen Freelon will be giving a data science/computational social science seminar at the University of Michigan School of Information.

On March 17, Tressie McMillan Cottom will give a policy talk at the University of Michigan on modern discourse.  Dr. Cottom will also be giving this year’s Ed Mignon Distinguished Lecture at the University of Washington Information School on April 13, and the keynote address for the Association of College & Research Libraries 2021 Conference, taking place April 13-16.

Informal, Criminalized, Precarious: Sex Workers Organizing Against Barriers” – CITAP is presenting a webinar series with Hacking//Hustling, the Cornell Gender Justice Clinic, and Berkman Klein Center in April.

…and if you made it this far, a sneak preview of what’s surely the hottest new trend in content moderation:

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