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June 17, 2021, 2:21 p.m.
LINK: mediaengagement.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   June 17, 2021

News consumers and social media platform users prioritize the removal of hate speech over the removal of profanity, according to a new study by the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas, Austin.

The Center for Media Engagement partnered with Erasmus University in the Netherlands and NOVA University in Portugal to understand how the public perceives comment deletion and the moderators who do it in the United States, the Netherlands, and Portugal. They surveyed 902 people in the United States, 975 in the Netherlands, and 993 in Portugal.

In a comment template designed to look like the common commenting platform Disqus, researchers randomly showed survey participants social media posts. Here’s how they did it:

Participants were exposed to a social media post that contained either hate speech or profanity. Then they were exposed to a post from a moderator — either a human or an algorithm — that deleted the initial post because it was offensive. This message either explained specifically why the post was deleted, gave a general sense of why it was deleted with a clickable link to community guidelines for the site, or offered no explanation. Afterward, participants answered questions about how fair or legitimate the deletion was and how transparent or trustworthy the moderator was.

In all countries, survey participants thought that removing hate speech was more fair and legitimate than removing profanity, and found the moderators who did so and offered a detailed explanation of why to be more transparent. In the U.S. and the Netherlands, participants found moderators removing hate speech to be more trustworthy than those who removed profanity. While the method of removal — either by a human or an algorithm — did not impact how Americans and Dutch people felt about content removal, in Portugal, “participants perceived deletions by human moderators as more fair and legitimate compared to deletions by algorithms.”

The Center recommends the following ways to use the findings from the survey:

  • Moderators should focus more on hate speech, because people see hate speech as more in need of deletion than profanity.
  • Moderators should explain specifically why content was removed, rather than offer general explanations.
  • Algorithmic moderators may be perceived equally to human moderators, although specific cultural contexts should be considered because this may not be the case in every country.

Read the full report here.

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