New research project: TACo


Since September 1, Sophie Lecheler is leading the WWTF-funded project TACo.

In cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), Sophie Lecheler and her team will conduct the research project Transparent Automated Content Moderation (TACo). The project receives funding by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) and is scheduled to run for four years (2021-2025). Led by Sophie Lecheler (PI) and Allan Hanbury (Co-PI, TU Wien), TACo looks to investigate a user-centric approach towards automated content moderation. From January 2022 onwards, the project team will be supported by an additional predoc at our department.

About: Online political discussions are increasingly perceived as negative, aggressive, and toxic. This is a worry, because exposure to toxic talk undermines trust and fosters cynicism, leading to a polarized society. Defining what could be considered "toxic" is therefore one of the most pressing challenges for researchers today, because such a definition may be used to develop (semi-)automated content moderation systems that ensure healthy political conversations on a global scale. However, the available research on toxic talk and content moderation is elite-driven and imposes top-down definitions of what is "good" or "bad" on users. This has resulted in biased content moderation models, and it has damaged the reputation of those who have implemented them. More importantly, however, a top-down approach removes agency from citizens in a time when many already feel they have too little influence on their daily information intake. Therefore, TACo proposes a novel user-centric approach towards automated content moderation. We conduct qualitative and exploratory social science research to learn what citizens themselves want, when it comes to toxic talk and content moderation. Then, we develop moderation scenarios based on this knowledge, testing for usefulness and reliability of models. Finally, we test whether what people "want" truly has beneficial effects for them: we conduct experiments that test the effects of these models on citizens' political trust, engagement, and well-being.

Transparent Automated Content Moderation (TACo)
Fördergeber: Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF)
PI: Sophie Lecheler (University of Vienna)
Co-PI: Allan Hanbury (TU Wien)
Duration: 2021-2024
Funding: € 348.240

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