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Discoverability of Public Interest Content Online

Strasbourg 24 November 2020
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© Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

The new report “Prioritisation uncovered. The Discoverability of Public Interest Content Online” addresses an issue of major concern: public access to information online.

Whilst the freedom of expression implications of content takedown, ‘privatised censorship’ and down-ranking of content have been much discussed in recent years, content curation practices like up-ranking and prioritisation have been under less scrutiny. Yet content moderation and curation are two sides of the same coin and they both determine which content is circulated and accessed online. In contemporary media systems, routes for accessing audio-visual media content online are more complex than the channels and electronic programmes guides (EPGs) typical of linear distribution. As media consumption shifts onto a range of on-demand, mobile, social and streaming services, the role of hardware devices, operating systems, users’ interface design, and related search and discovery functions becomes pivotal in nudging audiences’ choices and ultimately driving access to and consumption of content.

Control over a user’s journey to content is shifting, but how? Who has the power to decide what should be prioritised, and what content should be of the public interest? What are the strategies and criteria used by different organisations to make these decisions? What are the implications for fundamental rights and democracy?

At a time of disinformation and manipulation these concerns are becoming more urgent for public policymakers.
This timely report addresses these questions with the aim to challenge the role of new gatekeepers, while providing a clearer understanding of what prioritisation of public interest content means in an internet-distributed ecosystem. By researching current industry practices in this area and emerging issues, we have highlighted policy needs and potential avenues for interventions.

Elaborated by LSE researchers Eleonora Maria Mazzoli and Dr. Damian Tambini, this study was prepared within the context of the work of the Committee of Experts on Media Environment and Reform (MSI-REF).