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NEWS

COVID-19 Content Moderation Research Letter

One year of measuring content preserved, made unavailable and restored

Dear Social Media and Content-Sharing Platforms:

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, the importance of your platforms and their real world impact has never been clearer. Your platforms are being used to communicate, assemble, research the virus, provide mutual aid, and more. We understand that many platforms have increased their reliance on automated content moderation during the pandemic, while simultaneously removing misinformation and apparently inaccurate information about COVID-19 at an unprecedented rate.

The importance of accurate information during this pandemic is clear. But knowledge about the novel coronavirus is rapidly evolving. This is also an unprecedented opportunity to study how online information flows ultimately affect health outcomes, and to evaluate the macro- and micro-level consequences of relying on automation to moderate content in a complex and evolving information environment. But such studies rely on information that your companies control–including information you are automatically blocking and removing from your services. It is essential that platforms preserve this data so that it can be made available to researchers and journalists and included in your transparency reports. The data will be invaluable to those working in public health, human rights, science and academia. It will be crucial to develop safeguards to address the privacy issues raised by new or longer data retention and by the sharing of information with third parties, but the need for immediate preservation is urgent.

We, the undersigned organizations, institutions, and researchers, urge you to:

  • Immediately commit to preserving all data on content removal during the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to information about which takedowns did not receive human review, whether users tried to appeal the takedown (when that information is available), and reports that were not acted upon.
  • Preserve all content that the platform is automatically blocking or removing, including individual posts, videos, images, and entire accounts.
  • Produce transparency reports that include information about content blocking and removal related to COVID-19
  • Provide access to this data in the future to researchers and journalists, recognizing that privacy will need to be ensured.

Signed,

Organizations

Access Now Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF) AlgorithmWatch ARTICLE 19 Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio & Communication Carnegie Mellon University Center for Human Rights Science Center for Democracy & Technology Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) Committee to Protect Journalists Cook Islands Internet Action Group CREOpoint Dangerous Speech Project Democracy Reporting International Derechos Digitales Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub, GWU Electronic Frontier Foundation EU DisinfoLab Foundation for Media Free Press Unlimited Gatef organization Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) Gulf Centre for Human Rights Hellerstein & Associates Institute for Strategic Dialogue Internet Sans Frontières IPANDETEC MediaLab ISCTE-IUL Media Matters for Democracy Media Monitoring Africa New America’s Open Technology Institute New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights Paradigm Initiative PEN America PersonalData.IO Ranking Digital Rights Reporters Without Borders (RSF) RNW Media South African National Editors Forum Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV) Syrian Archive TEDIC WITNESS

Individuals (Institutions listed for identification purposes)

Agustina Del Campo, Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información (CELE), Universidad de Palermo, Argentina Alexa Koenig, Executive Director, Human Rights Center, Berkeley Law Anthony Fargo, Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies, Indiana University Dr Argyro Karanasiou, Director of LETS Lab, University of Greenwich Chinmayi Arun, Resident Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School Claudio Fogu, President, UCSB Faculty Association Constance Penley, University of California, Santa Barbara Damian Loreti, Lecturer Universidad de Buenos Aires – Social Sciences Fac. Daphne Keller, Stanford Cyber Policy Center David Morar, Visiting Scholar, GWU Elliott School, Digital Trade & Data Governance Hub Deirdre K. Mulligan, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley Eileen Donahoe, Executive Director, Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator Elaine Monaghan, Professor of Practice, Journalism, Indiana University-Bloomington Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers Law Emma L. Briant, Associate Researcher at Bard College Enrique Piracés, Program Manager, Center for Human Rights Science, Carnegie Mellon University Filippo Menczer, Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law Jay David Aronson, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, Carnegie Mellon University Jennifer Holt, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara Jessica Fjeld, Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Klein Center Jun Liu, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen Lisa Parks, Professor, MIT Marianne Franklin, Professor of Global Media and Politics Marietje Schaake, Stanford Cyber Policy Center and Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Michael Karanicolas, Wikimedia Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School Molly Land, UConn Human Rights Institute Robin Mejia, Department of Statistics & Data Science, Carnegie Mellon University Sebastian Schwemer, Associate Professor, Centre for Information and Innovation Law (CIIR), University of Copenhagen Wafa Ben-Hassine, Human Rights Lawyer Yong Liu, Hebei Academy of Social Sciences

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Mnemonic is an NGO dedicated to archiving, investigating and memorialising digital information documenting human rights violations and international crimes. Mnemonic also provides trainings, conducts research, engages in content moderation advocacy, and develops tools to support advocacy, justice and accountability.

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