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The Ethics of Content Labeling: Examining New Approaches for Social Media and Online Platforms

John Wihbey, Lead Investigator, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Media Innovation,

Ronald Sandler, Professor of Philosophy

Kay Mathiesen, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Briony Swire-Thompson, Research Scientist, Network Science Institute

Don Fallis, Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science

The primary aim of this project is to provide robust social and ethical analysis and evaluation of different approaches to online content labeling. The project’s central research question is: How can online social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, meet the needs and demands of society in terms of labeling informational content in an ethical and effective way? The project includes a focus on labeling to address scientific misinformation related to COVID-19, as well as a focus on how best to incorporate fact-checking into labeling efforts. The project draws on knowledge gained from current attempts at online content labeling in general, as well as from strong analogs to content labeling, such as in library sciences and food labeling. The project incorporates international, cross-cultural perspectives and the views of global researchers. Overall, this project will provide a framework for identifying best practices in online content labeling, as well as for identifying considerations that need to be addressed in order for different approaches to be successful from both ethical and efficacy perspectives. Support for this project comes from Northeastern’s Office of the Provost and Facebook, Inc.

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