Informational Quality Labeling on Social Media: In Defense of a Social Epistemology Strategy

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Abstract
Social media platforms have been rapidly increasing the number of informational labels they are appending to user-generated content in order to indicate the disputed nature of messages or to provide context. The rise of this practice constitutes an important new chapter in social media governance, as companies are often choosing this new “middle way” between a laissez-faire approach and more drastic remedies such as removing or downranking content. Yet information labeling as a practice has, thus far, been mostly tactical, reactive, and without strategic underpinnings. In this paper, we argue against defining success as merely the curbing of misinformation spread. The key to thinking about labeling strategically is to consider it from an epistemic perspective and to take as a starting point the “social” dimension of online social networks. The strategy we articulate emphasizes how the moderation system needs to improve the epistemic position and relationships of platform users — i.e., their ability to make good judgements about the sources and quality of the information with which they interact on the platform — while also appropriately respecting sources, seekers, and subjects of information. A systematic and normatively grounded approach can improve content moderation efforts by providing clearer accounts of what the goals are, how success should be defined and measured, and where ethical considerations should be taken into consideration. We consider implications for the policies of social media companies, propose new potential metrics for success, and review research and innovation agendas in this regard.
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Archival date: 2021-06-03
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2021-06-03

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