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Social Media Reading List: Data, Mis/disinformation, and Policy & Regulation

Kristen Stockdale
09 December 2020
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15 mins read

Social media is a huge topic. There are infinite articles, videos, and other discussion on the subject – and it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ve rounded up some great introductory reading to help you get acquainted with such a broad and fast moving conversation.

Data (uses & associated risks)

  1. Richard Allan, a Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and a member of the House of Lords, on the challenges of social platforms giving data to researchers. Link.
  2. New York Times interview with Facebook’s election security chief. Link.
  3. How Twitter got hacked earlier this year. Lots and lots of security best practices not being followed, partly because of lockdown. Link.
  4. Following up the final collapse of the Cambridge Analytica story, the UK political magazines the Spectator (centre-right) and New Statement (centre-left) both have write-ups saying the same thing – it was a scam, and a hoax. Links: SpectatorNew Statesman.
  5. We worry about algorithms being biased, but it’s worth remembering that they might replace another biased system – people. Here, the politicians who allocate French daycare slots. Link.
  6. Model Emily Ratajkowski on owning her own image, and on people stealing it. Link.
  7. Facebook is launching a proposal for an external, peer-reviewed, data-based academic study of social media effects on elections. Link.


  1. Facebook adds labels when Trump posts lies, but that doesn’t do much to stop them being spread. (Of course, it doesn’t follow that all the people sharing his posts believe them – the opposite might be true.) The media reports it while saying it’s not true, and Facebook lets you post it while adding a label that it’s not true. What does this mean? Link.
  2. Photoshop & Deepfakes. Photoshop has added a set of machine learning-based tools to let you manipulate images in new ways – change the expression of a face in a photograph, for example. Link.
  3. How rumours spread in the UK in 1914 – the nationwide myth that an army of Russians soldiers ‘with snow on their boots’ had been seen on the move. Link.
  4. Does ‘fake news’ actually make up a meaningful part of people’s media intake? (Not really). Link.
  5. When an expert on content moderation gets their Twitter account suspended. False positives and false negatives. Link.

Policy & regulation (inc. free speech)

  1. A while ago an Austrian court ruled that a libellous post on Facebook had to be taken down not just for Austrian viewers but globally. Facebook lost its appeal. How do you apply national law to international systems? Link.
  2. Fascinating problem at Yelp: if a retailer is in the news accused of a ‘racist incident’, for instance, then its Yelp reviews are flooded with comments from angry people who read the new story but are not actually customers. How does content moderation apply to this? Link.
  3. An advertisers group (the WFA) has joined with Facebook, Youtube and Twitter to produce a standard definition of ‘hate speech’ for the purposes of content moderation. It is good to standardise, and to remove subjectivity (where that’s possible, which is certainly not everywhere) – but what about control of speech being determined on a commercial basis? Link.
  4. After a lot of internal argument, Facebook banned an Indian politician, T. Raja Singh, for inflammatory statements that break its rules. There were suggestions his behaviour had previously been ignored due to his political influence – he’s a member of the ruling BJP and India is Facebook’s biggest market by users. Whose decision is this, and (how) can Facebook be the arbiter of political speech for every country on earth? Link.

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