Under the title “Beyond deleting and blocking – moderation strategies for promoting constructive online discussions”, DIID was represented with a panel discussion at the D³ Congress on November 23, 2022.
This is now the third congress on digital democracy, which was jointly organized by the Alliance for Diverse Democracy, the Stiftung Zukunft Berlin, and the Berlin Institute for Participation. The panel was organized by Jonathan Seim and Lena Wilms. Lena Wilms also moderated the discussion and welcomed Sarah Fröhlingsdorf (German Research Institute for Public Administration), Dominique Heinbach (DIID) and Marie-Kathrin Siemer (Liquid Democracy e.V.) to the panel. Together, they addressed the question of how moderation can contribute to the success of Internet-based citizen participation processes.
The political discussion on moderation of online discourse often focuses on the legal obligations of platform operators, for example, to remove content that is relevant under criminal law. The panel opened up two perspectives beyond this with regard to the goal and means of online moderation. First, the objective of moderation cannot and should not be limited to avoiding content relevant to criminal law, but should also include promoting the quality of online discussions. For example, quality criteria such as rationality, reciprocity, and civility can be justified in terms of democratic theory. Second, the tools of moderation are not limited to reactive deletion of problematic content, but also include proactive and interactive moderation. For example, moderation can support mutual references between discourse participants through recognition and regulate incivil behavior through admonishment and reference to netiquette. The possibilities were discussed from the perspectives of social science, legal theory, technology and practice.
The 50 or so people present in the plenary session of the online meeting took an active part in the Q&A session that followed. Of particular interest were the questions of the extent to which moderation must or can be neutral and whether a requirement of neutrality would not undermine other requirements of moderation, such as the inclusive design of the discourse. The possibilities of interactive moderation were also discussed with interest, especially against the background of the lower intensity of intervention, for example, in comparison to the deletion of contributions.
All in all, the event, which evidenced a broad interest in the work of the DIID, was a complete success, and the DIID will be present at next year’s D³ Congress as well.