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Webinar: From ‘Hard’ to ‘Soft’ Content Moderation? The Amplification and Demotion of Content on Social Media

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Who governs and who should govern online discourse? What normative regimes, which procedures and institutions regulate communication on social media? Until now, public law offered a unique perspective to analyze, criticize and improve private content moderation as many features of content moderation emulate public law. However, this public-law analogy must evolve. In the future, the prominence of binary ‘legal/illegal’-decisions in content moderation might wane. Instead, other ‘soft’ mechanisms such as the algorithmic amplification and demotion of content will become more important. Design choices shaping what content goes viral on platforms are a vital component of ‘soft’ content moderation. Yet, we lack a conceptual framework for assessing the amplification and demotion of content from a normative and regulatory perspective. This panel brings together experts from academia and practice to reflect on the role of public law in the next phase of private governance of public discourse: from ‘hard’ content moderation understood as rule-enforcement vis-à-vis users to ‘soft’ content moderation understood as norm-based discourse facilitation.


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