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Social platforms reconsider content moderation following the Queen’s death

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By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

September 12, 2022 | 6 min read

Following the Queen’s death, social media platforms have been forced to consider their content moderation policies. The Drum looks at the changes they’ve made.

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The social reponses to the Queen’s death were even more emotive – and thus dangerous – than usual / Adobe Stock

Queen Elizabeth II’s death was first broken by the official Royal Family Twitter account. It marks a seismic shift in how news of that magnitude is disseminated – one that acknowledges the importance of community and social platforms when it comes to speaking directly to the public.

At the same time, those means of mass communications have struggled for years with how to moderate and limit free speech around various issues. In the wake of the news, in tandem with expressions of sadness, social platforms were also awash with opinions, jokes and missives on her passing. To that end, some social platforms were forced to jerry-rig responses to complaints, based on existing moderation tools.

Twitter, for example, removed a post from a university professor in the US who called the British monarchy a “thieving raping genocidal empire,” and wished for “her pain [to] be excruciating.” This drew criticism from, among others, Jeff Bezos – though it is unclear on which grounds the tweet was removed.

Of its overall approach to moderation around the incident, Twitter told The Drum that it has been “proactively monitoring for emerging narratives that are violative of our policies.”

“We will take action when we identify any tweets or accounts that violate the Twitter Rules,” the spokesperson said.

“At Twitter, we have several protocols in place to protect the public conversation. We have created a dedicated Event page, which is currently live in four languages and cites you to credible sources and tweets. This can be accessed through the Explore and Trends tab. We’ve paused adverts on the platform within the UK until midnight on Sunday and on the day of the funeral.”

Snap, meanwhile, has also been monitoring the discourse across its platform. Although Twitter has been the focus of much criticism around brand responses, Snap and TikTok are where the majority of memetic responses first appear.

To that end, while Snap is not making any changes to its moderation policy in the aftermath of the Queen’s death, it has considered whether brands will want to appear next to it. It paused advertisements across all news and public service broadcaster content on Snapchat Discover in the UK, which lasted for 24 hours.

It also noted that ads on Snapchat are subject to approval following human review and, should an ad be flagged, a human moderator would be able to make a more nuanced judgment on whether an ad would be allowed to stay up than if automated tools were relied upon.

Facebook and Instagram have not commented as yet on whether they have amended their moderation policies temporarily following the death. But while the world’s media was covering the Queen’s death, parent company Meta quietly confirmed it had called time on its Responsible Innovation team, which was initially set up to examine unintended consequences of Facebook’s reinvention of social media.

As expected, the increasingly thought leadership-led platform of LinkedIn has seen a vast array of responses, from well wishes to poems. A LinkedIn spokesperson said: Her Majesty the Queen has been a huge part of people’s lives, all around the world, and we send our deepest sympathies to the Royal Family at this difficult time. During the past day, we’ve seen LinkedIn members share their condolences and personal experiences of the incredible role and impact that the Queen had in her 70 years as monarch.

“As the world around us changes, we’re always working to keep our members and conversations safe.”

We will update the article with further comment as we get it.

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