Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM 552 – Content Moderation and Ethics
Content Moderation Principles
Content Moderation isn’t as modern as you might think. Ratings systems are not new. Even before the internet, film reviewers like Siskel and Ebert would routinely award stars or thumbs up or down. Book reviewers would favor a work with placement in a well-known periodical, such as the New York Times Review of Books.
But there’s been a change. Reviews are now big business. Under social technographics theories, Critics encompass over 1/3 of all users online.
I believe that there are differing ethical considerations, depending upon the type of content under critique. There are fundamental differences between works of art and consumer goods and services.
Rating Consumer Goods and Services
For the rating of consumer goods and services, a lot of the measurements are quantitative ones. E. g. a size 10 shoe must be within certain length parameters. Those don’t change if the shoemaker is a large company or a tiny one-person cottage industry. The same is true if there is a promise for the manufacture of the shoe in a certain time frame. Either it’s delivered on time, or it’s not. The one-person operation and the huge multinational conglomerate both have the same seven-day week.
In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the contractarian ethical theory. This is whereby ethics are based on mutual agreement. So the shoemaker tells the consumer that the shoe fits a size 10. The consumer buys the shoe because they rely on the shoemaker providing a product within accepted length parameters. If the shoe is too long or too short, then the shoemaker is in breach.
There are subjective qualitative measurements as well. Is the shoe stylish and comfortable? Is it in fashion? Some of those variables are under the control of the shoemaker. Others, like the whims of fashion, are not.
But the reviewing of consumer goods and services is generally in the objective and quantitative realm. If the shoe isn’t in fashion, or the consumer doesn’t like the color, they don’t buy it. Reviewing after the fact is usually of fit, durability, and other measurable considerations. That’s not quite the case with works of art.
Rating Works of Art
For rating works of art, there is virtually nothing that’s measurable or objective or quantitative. While a film critic might dislike, say, the Lord of the Rings< films because of their length, that’s generally not the only reason a professional critic will supply. Instead, the critic will mention if the plot held their interest. They’ll mention if the characters were true to the source material. And if the actors’ performances were credible. Plus if a parent can safely take their children with them to the picture. About the only one of these review elements that is quantitative is the latter. And even the question of suitability for children is a subjective one.
Bucking for Improvements in Content Moderation
Further, a bad review for a consumer good/service can (should) lead to improvements. The company should try to make amends. According to Beth Harpaz’s article, Debate over ethics of deleting negative reviews, companies should actively try to improve their customer service after a complaint.
“TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter said businesses are instead encouraged to reply to reviewers publicly on the site. It’s not unusual to see a negative review followed by an apology from a business detailing what’s been done to make amends.”
But no such option truly exists for works of art. A reviewer might hate scenes of the burning of Atlanta. Yet they won’t get an official new version of Gone With the Wind. So that’s not unless the reviewer personally edits the work. Even then, the edited version would be seen as unofficial and unsanctioned (and likely a copyright violation). All that the reviewer can do is (a) dissuade people from voting with their wallets for certain works of art. And, possibly, (b) convince the artist to try better next time.
For works of art, it’s more of the Eudaimonism theory of ethics – the well-being of the individual has central value. So, does the work entertain? So does it enlighten, uplift, or inspire? Gone With The Wind can. The Venus de Milo can. Shoes, however, cannot.