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International researchers call for accountability and transparency regarding algorithmic content moderation

03 December 2020

Berlin, 3 December 2020 – “The Ethics of Digitalisation” project has completed its first research sprint and published three policy briefs, calling for more transparency and accountability concerning algorithmic content moderation. The Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers (NoC) joint project is under the patronage of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and funded by Stiftung Mercator.

The initiative by the Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers (NoC) brings ethics to the forefront of the debate around platforms and their handling of content.

In response to increasing public pressure to tackle hate speech and other challenging content, platform companies have turned to algorithmic content moderation systems. These automated tools promise to be more effective and efficient in identifying potentially illegal or unwanted material. But algorithmic content moderation also raises many questions – all of which eschew simple answers. Where is the line between hate speech and freedom of expression – and how to automate this on a global scale? And how can policymakers ensure an adequate level of transparency and accountability in platforms’ algorithmic content moderation processes?

These were just some of the issues that drove the research sprint on AI and content moderation hosted virtually by the HIIG over the course of ten weeks from August until October 2020. an interdisciplinary group of thirteen international fellows from nine different countries produced three policy briefs that make recommendations on how to address the most pressing challenges arising from automation in content moderation.

The sprint was the first research format of the project “The Ethics of Digitalisation – from Principles to Practices” under the patronage of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. This project, funded by Stiftung Mercator, aims to foster a global dialogue on the ethics of digitalisation. The main NoC project partners are the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, the Digital Asia Hub, HIIG and the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans Bredow Institute.

The current second research sprint (October – December 2020), hosted by the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to education and learning spaces. In February 2021, the HIIG will host a two-week clinic on  increasing fairness in ad delivery on social networks. For more information on the project as well as a detailed timeline please visit the project page.

Visit the policy briefs for more detail:

Policy Brief I – Making Audits Meaningful

Policy Brief II – Disclosure Rules for Algorithmic Content Moderation

Policy Brief III – Freedom of Expression in the Digital Public Sphere

Read our blog article here:

When Scholars Sprint, Bad Algorithms Are on the Run

Watch the presentation of the policy briefs here:

Press contact: Katrin Werner | phone.: +49 30 200 760 82 |

About the NoC

The NoC (Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers) is a worldwide initiative of academic institutions with a focus on interdisciplinary research on the internet and society. The aim of the initiative is to promote cooperation between the participating centres in order to promote transnational and interdisciplinary exchange on the most pressing issues in connection with new technologies.

About the HIIG

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) researches the development of the internet from a societal perspective. The aim is to better understand the digitalisation of all spheres of life. As the first research institute in Germany to focus on nternet and society, HIIG has established an understanding that emphasises the embeddedness of digital innovations in societal processes. As node in the Global Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers, an initiative of scientific institutions worldwide in the field of interdisciplinary research on internet and society, the institute is trying to develop a European perspective on digital transformation. 

The HIIG was founded in 2011 by the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the University of the Arts Berlin and the Social Science Research Center Berlin, in alliance with the Hans-Bredow Institute for Media Research in Hamburg as an integrated co-operation partner. The research directors of the institute are Prof. Dr. Jeanette Hofmann, Prof. Dr. Björn Scheuermann, Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schildhauer and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz.

About Stiftung Mercator

Stiftung Mercator is a private and independent foundation. Through its work it strives for a society characterized by openness to the world, solidarity and equal opportunities. In this context it concentrates on strengthening Europe; increasing the educational success of disadvantaged children and young people, especially those of migrant origin; driving forward climate change mitigation and promoting science and the humanities. Stiftung Mercator symbolizes the connection between academic expertise and practical project experience. One of Germany’s leading foundations, it is active both nationally and internationally. Stiftung Mercator feels a strong sense of loyalty to the Ruhr region, the home of the founding family and the foundation’s headquarters.

Moritz Timm

Ehem. Projektkoordinator | Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

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