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Schoenebeck: What would a healthy online commons look like?

"Featured in KQED. Associate Professor Sarita Schoenebeck. What would a healthy online commons look like? A photo of Sarita standing outside, smiling and wearing a purple shirt.

Friday, 05/27/2022

How can Twitter serve democracy? What is the future of online digital platforms? Who should run them? As Elon Musk continues talks with Twitter to potentially purchase the platform, experts and scholars are debating issues of censorship, misinformation and the role of public platforms to serve democracy through ethical national discourse. 

San Francisco-based public media company KQED raised these topics in a recent podcast episode. Sarita Schoenebeck, associate professor of information at the University of Michigan, was featured in this episode. 

An expert in equity and justice in online platforms, Schoenebeck tackles these questions with host ​​Alexis C. Madrigal. Schoenebeck has worked with Twitter on issues of misinformation. She talks about her research and discusses ways in which content moderation on social media platforms can become more effective through the use of shared community values and human rights. 

“It’s important to remember social media is not a blank slate any more than any community offline is,” she says. “We can look at our local schools, for example, and they all have policies and values that shape people’s experiences. And the same thing happens online. One example I like is the website which was started by Omar Wasow in 1999. And in the very first substantiation of it they had a community guideline that read “don’t be racist.” And they still have it today in various forms, whereas Facebook was started in 2004 and they didn’t have that. 

Free speech is at the government level, but platforms can make their decisions around what values they want to have and what they want to enforce,” she adds. 

Listen to “Reimagining the Future of Digital Public Spaces” through KQED

Connect to associate professor of information Sarita Schoenebeck