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Content moderation on social media platforms is a slippery slope

After the Twitter takeover, Elon Musk announced the formation of a Content Moderation Board with representatives from diverse backgrounds who would be responsible for major content decisions and account reinstatements on the platform.

This has sparked a debate about whether content moderation is actually possible and how to ensure a fair trade-off between limiting harmful content and freedom of expression. For example, this tweet from Ben Lang, co-founder and editor of Road to VR, expressing his contempt for any form of content moderation on social media platforms:

The imposition of corporate moderation on social media platforms is a position abhorred by many. Unfortunately, there is no clear idea of ​​what major routes businesses can take, if any.

Let’s look at content moderation on Indian social media platforms and how it differs from moderation when it comes to multiple global platforms.

Content Filtering in Indian Social Media Apps

Some of the local social media platforms like Koo, Chingari, Mauj, Tiki, etc. have attracted millions of users lately. Just recently Koo, India’s “Twitter alternative” surpassed 50 million app downloads. The growing number of users on these platforms means that they need to be able to moderate the content of their apps.

Sumit Ghosh, CEO and co-founder of Chingari, said OBJECTIVE, “While political intervention for content moderation can be difficult for social media platforms, it is a practice used in many countries to mitigate social media risks.” Chingari uses a HuMachine formula, where the content is first reviewed by the AI/ML tool and then reviewed by a team of moderators.

Unlike global platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, content moderation in Indian social media apps is tailor-made in accordance with the law of the land and the cultural context of the country. Rajneesh Jaswal, Head of Policy at Koo, said, “Here, we have an India-centric approach to content moderation.” Certain nuances such as training algorithms to censor swear words in different Indian languages, or on visual fronts, avoiding flagging Indian gods and goddesses for stripping are some examples he highlighted.

Therefore, the conversation around content moderation on social media sites in India has mostly centered on government bodies setting the law, compared to other “one-size-fits-all” platforms where questions are posed to corporate tycoons who manage these platforms, or “independents”. bodies fixed by them.

So how does being ‘universal’ affect big social media companies, and more specifically, what are the challenges Musk will face now that he has come forward as a harbinger? freedom of expression in social media?

Content moderation, a political problem?

Nicholas Thompsonthe CEO of Atlantic, joins the conversation by explaining why content moderation is difficult — more so for Elon Musk, precisely because so much of his wealth is tied to Tesla. Thompson places the debate in a global context and shows how attempts to restrict content on Twitter can affect Tesla’s business across international borders.

By banning accounts or flagging certain types of content as “misinformation,” he says, Musk can be barred from doing business in countries where Twitter’s policies don’t benefit power. Thompson cites the example of Apple, which had to navigate difficult terrain due to its activities in China.

Similarly, Nilay Patel, editor of The edge, writing that Musk has put himself in a very compromising position with his takeover of Twitter that will ultimately damage his reputation as well as his other businesses. He adds that Twitter’s problems are not engineering problems, but political problems.

Take the case of India. The country has decided to stick to its decision to develop a grievance committee which users can appeal to if their content is moderated by social media platforms, without having to take legal action. The committee will have the power to overrule the decision made by the social media companies. The wavering power space to moderate content between social media companies and the government has also recently led to Twitter taking over. The Indian government in court. Twitter has expressed its disapproval of the government’s content blocking orders on its platform on the grounds that they are “too broad and arbitrary”.

Therefore, historically, this has been very turbulent ground to walk on, and it won’t be easy for Musk either.

Explaining the problems the Twitter acquisition will cause Musk, Nicholas Thompson goes on to say that one possible solution for Musk will be to move away from the “global face of content moderation”. By outsourcing all regulatory decisions to a board, or distancing himself from Twitter’s decision-making body, Musk will be able to escape the apprehension that will come with it.

Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency, also comes to the same conclusion in his defense of individual choice when he says, “It’s crazy to me that people think content moderation is a binary between ‘the gods. company have to decide for us who is allowed to speak’ or ‘my timeline will be filled with videos of racism and torture’. There are other better alternatives.

Here’s a tweet that captures the alternatives he talks about here:

Therefore, it is safe to say that moderation is very undefined territory and must pass through levels of political discourse before a judgment on “right” moderation can be made.



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