In recent years, social media platforms have faced public scrutiny for their practices in managing controversial content. New technologies are emerging that will make it increasingly more challenging for platforms to link content to its owners or determine its authenticity. Yet, legislative responses to force social media companies to better moderate their content are fraught with challenges where one-size solutions may not fit all situations. Social media companies, thus, are now seeking approaches that protect freedom of expression on their platforms while helping to forestall violations that may result in legal repercussions or government policy responses. They seek to offer individual users access to remedies to address content removal without violating the protection of individual freedoms.
Investigating possible solutions, the practicum research team will work closely with scholars at the Stanford Project on Democracy and the Internet and in consultation with senior staff at Facebook to propose the structure and procedures for an external social media oversight board (in effect, an appellate court) for platforms’ decisions to take down or leave up controversial content. A motivating case will be Facebook’s attempts to create an independent appellate tribunal and senior staff at Facebook will be available to engage on the project. Issues include the board’s selection and membership, and its processes, including how cases are selected for review, deliberated, and decided, and how decisions are published to provide guidance for a social media platform and its users. Student researchers will conduct interviews with social media personnel about challenges in moderating controversial content and they will review possible adjudication models and processes. Students who have completed First Amendment Law and/or who have recent experience working at social media companies are especially invited to apply. The practicum meets as a discussion seminar weekly on Thursdays, 9-11 AM. After the term begins, and with the consent of the instructor, students accepted into the course may transfer from Section 01 (2 units) into Section 02 (3 units), which meets the R requirement.