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January 2021
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Content Moderation Case Study: Yelp Attempts To Tackle Racism On Its Platform (2020)

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Summary: Running a site that relies on third-party content means having to deal with the underside of human existence. While most people engage in good faith, a small minority of people engage with the sole purpose of disparaging others.

Yelp is no exception. Designed to provide potential customers with useful information about goods and services, the site's popularity lent itself to brigading (negative reviews delivered en masse in response to current outrages) and the lowest common denominators of the general public: bigots.The potential to ruin a business's reputation over their views on immigration policy, their employment of minorities, or other perceived slights made it possible for the most-respected review site to be weaponized by racists.Yelp recognized this inevitability. Moderators patrol the site to limit the spread of bigoted content that skew review scores based on the racist predilections of reviewers.
Communities have always turned to Yelp in reaction to current events at the local level. As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we've seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions. Yelp's User Operations team already places alerts on business pages when we notice an unusual uptick in reviews that are based on what someone may have seen in the news or on social media, rather than on a first-hand experience with the business. Now, when a business gains public attention for reports of racist conduct, such as using racist language or symbols, Yelp will place a new Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert on their Yelp page to inform users, along with a link to a news article where they can learn more about the incident.
This move may have seemed laudable but it lent itself to subjective interpretations of decisions made by businesses, as well as individual actions by employees. Employing a racist person is not the same as running a racist business, but Yelp's blanket policy seemed to indicate both were equally racist.Further comments by Yelp clarified some of its employees would make the final determination on alleged racism by businesses or business owners. Any company flagged for racist behavior would be sheltered from further comment until a determination was made.
Decisions to be made by Yelp:
  • Does allowing users to unilaterally declare businesses to be "racist" thwart monetization efforts by Yelp?
  • Is it wise to succumb to the "wisdom of the crowd," especially when Yelp feels an interstitial warning is an acceptable replacement for due diligence?
Questions and policy implications to consider:
  • Does Yelp's reliance on income from businesses seeking to expand their reach conflict with allegations of racism by business owners/employees?
  • Do policies like this actually encourage bad faith behavior by hiding reviews behind an ominous warning that suggests the complaints are legitimate?
Resolution: This use of warnings and the hiding of unverified reviews (at least temporarily) is still company policy. While its moderation efforts may eventually lead to a satisfactory resolution, its decision to flag businesses based on unverified claims has the potential to result in a lot of collateral damage.Originally posted on the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

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posted at: 12:00am on 14-Jan-2021
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Nintendo Appears To Be Using A Fan-Made Drawing Of Mario Without Artist's Permission Or Credit

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Nintendo, of course, has an impressively long history of being IP protectionist in the extreme. But if there is one thing that Nintendo really cannot stand, it's when its own fans choose to express their fandom with art and creativity. Cool ways to use Animal Crossing? Nintendo shut it down. Dedicated gamers porting an antique Mario title to the PC? Nintendo shut it down. Fan game, after fan game, after fan game? Nintendo shut those down too. In other words, the impression you're left with is that fan creations using anything remotely close to Nintendo IP is the devil's work in the eyes of the company.Except, perhaps, when the company would like to use some of that work without permission or giving credit to the artist, it seems.

A new website for Nintendo’s upcoming Japanese theme park Super Nintendo World went live yesterday. It featured new details and a virtual tour of the video game wonderland ahead of its February 4 opening. It also used an image of Mario for its loading screen that appears to have been created not by Nintendo, but one of its fans.“I love how Nintendo used MY old ass Mario render in their official Nintendo World website,” Twitter user and Mario fan artist ujiidow tweeted earlier today. Their image of Mario was created roughly three years ago using the open source animation software Blender, and was shared on Reddit at the time. The Mario model used for the render wasn’t one of Nintendo’s, but instead belonged to 3D artist RafaKnight, who shared it for download on their Patreon in 2017.
Nintendo hasn't bothered to comment on any of this, but it's a funny thing how those that scream about respecting artists and creators can't seem to find it in themselves to treat others the way they want to be treated. Now, some will point out that Nintendo controls the Mario Bros. IP, as though it gave them the right to simply use any 3rd party artwork as though it were their own. That almost certainly isn't true, though, and is sort of besides the point. Nintendo goes way beyond just following the law in its intellectual property enforcement and treats it like some sort of ethos that aggressive protection is the right way to go.So why, then, not seek permission from the artist to use what he created? Why not credit the artist in some way? It's not like said artist wouldn't have been amendable to any of this.
Ujiidow isn’t necessarily complaining though. “I’m so used to my Mario renders getting very little attention,” they told Kotaku in an email. “I’m being told to take action on the matter but I find it very nice to finally have some recognition on it.”
Holy shit, imagine if Nintendo had the same gentle attitude towards its fans that its fans have toward Nintendo? What a wonderful world that would be.

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posted at: 12:00am on 14-Jan-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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