AKASHA Conversations #4 — Designing legitimate moderation in decentralized social networking

AKASHA Conversations #4 — Designing legitimate moderation in decentralized social networking

AKASHA Conversations is a monthly event where we explore the critical aspects of decentralized social networking. We are focusing on all things moderating at least for Q1 2022.

The AKASHA Foundation intends to help co-create moderating systems for decentralized social networks, and we were delighted that Prof. Amy X. Zhang could join us to share her latest research into  content moderation. Amy runs the Social Futures Lab at the University of Washington where her team aims to “reimagine social and collaborative systems to empower people and improve society".

Her presentation focused on the definition of legitimacy and empirical research of content moderation.

How can we best design content moderation of online social networks so that it is perceived as legitimate by its members? And how can we think about legitimacy and good governance when it comes to different forms of decentralized governance?

Amy highlighted these questions in light of the societal importance of social networks today. Social network governance is not formerly legitimized, but then neither is the US judicial system — the US Supreme Court was presented as an example of perceived legitimacy.

Amy introduced the term “procedural justice” in which people have a “diffuse trust” in an institution. Even when individuals disagree with specific decisions, they still maintain a general trust in the institution to resolve disputes in society.

Amy then asked whether the governance of major social media platforms today enjoys similar legitimacy.

Amy characterized the approach taken by commercial social network platforms as:

  1. Trust and safety teams devise policy
  2. Paid contract content moderators around the world are trained to manually carry out that policy on cases
  3. Engineering teams develop algorithms to flag and label content automatically, as well as power recommendations.

She described how her team explored the perceived legitimacy of varying online moderating processes. In two studies she and her team compared digital juries, paid moderators, and expert panels.

Key outcomes were:

  • Panels performed best with group decision-making strongly preferred to individual
  • Procedural legitimacy improved acceptance of a decision
  • Outcome matters —  quality of execution was perceived important
  • Decisions made by the individual user or algorithms were least trusted.

Finally, Amy highlighted her paper “Modular politics : Toward a Governance Layer for Online Communities” as well as her work on PolicyKit, a toolkit for self-governing digital communities.

Amy’s presentation was followed by a lively conversation that will hopefully carry on via akasha.ethereum.world as well as our Discourse forum. Check out the video recording and join the Conversation!

Related Reading: Comparing the Perceived Legitimacy of Content Moderation Processes: Contractors, Algorithms, Expert Panels, and Digital Juries

How can we all help Amy's research?

Check out Amy’s website at social.cs.washington.edu and keep an eye on her postings as there's always a study that may need participants.

About the AKASHA Conversations

AKASHA Conversations is a regular webinar exploring the critical questions of decentralized social networking, with expert presentations informing and inspiring open dialogue and action. To put it another way, AKASHA Conversations is designed to foster the collective design of decentralized conversation.

🙌🏽 How to get involved

We need a plurality of minds and ideas to work out how decentralized social networking should evolve. If you are interested in contributing your superpowers to a community of pioneers focusing on a complex but essential challenge for the decentralized web, the AKASHA Foundation’s community is your place to be!

👉🏽 We are currently running the AKASHA Moderating Open Design Challenge. Head there to find out more!

🗣️  Join The AKASHA Foundation’s Discourse ⚡️

Discuss, join working groups and read up about the latest conversations, design and development efforts related to designing decentralized social networking on our forum.

🚀  Join Ethereum World! ⚡️

Join us on our ride into the decentralized future of online social networks on akasha.ethereum.world.