TU Wien Informatics

Freedom of Expression in the Digital Public Sphere

  • By Claudia Vitt (edt.)
  • 2021-02-02
  • Public Lecture
  • Social Responsibility

This lecture will focus on how social media platforms can shape public discourse by their algorithmic content moderation.

Freedom of Expression in the Digital Public Sphere

  • This is an online-only event.
    See description for details.

Freedom of Expression in the Digital Public Sphere

Sunimal Mendis (Tilburg University, The Netherlands)

Christiane Wendehorst (University of Vienna, Austria)

Moderator: Erich Prem (eutema & TU Wien, Austria)


A substantial portion of contemporary public discourse takes place over online social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Accordingly, these platforms form a core component of the digital public sphere, which, although subject to private ownership, constitutes a digital infrastructural resource that is open to public members. The content moderation systems deployed by such platforms can influence and shape public discourse by mediating what members of the public can see, hear, and say online. Over time, these rules may have a norm-setting effect, shaping users’ conduct and expectations as to what constitutes “acceptable” discourse. Thus, the design and implementation of content moderation systems can have a powerful impact on the preservation of users’ freedom of preserving merging trend towards the deployment of algorithmic content moderation (ACM) systems gives rise to urgent concerns on the need to ensure that content moderation is regulated in a manner that safeguards and fosters robust public discourse.

This lecture develops upon the research carried out within the framework of the Research Sprint on AI and Platform Governance (2020) organized by the HIIG, Berlin. It explores how the proliferation of ACM poses increased risks for safeguarding the freedom of expression in the digital public sphere and proposes legal and regulatory strategies for ensuring greater public oversight and accountability in the design and implementation of content moderation systems by social media platforms.


To participate, go to the following link, Password: 0dzqxqiy.

All talks will be streamed and recorded on the Digital Humanism YouTube channel. For announcements and slides see the website.

About the Series

Digital humanism deals with the complex relationship between man and machine. It acknowledges the potential of Informatics and IT. At the same time, it points to related apparent threats such as privacy violations, ethical concerns with AI, automation, and loss of jobs, and the ongoing monopolization on the Web. The Corona crisis has shown these two faces of the accelerated digitalization—we are in a crucial moment in time.

For this reason, we started a new initiative—DIGHUM lectures—with regular online events to discuss the different aspects of Digital Humanism. We will have a speaker on a specific topic (30 minutes) followed by a discussion of 30 minutes every second Tuesday of each month at 5:00 PM CEST. This crisis does seriously affect our mobility, but it also offers the possibility to participate in events from all over the world—let’s take this chance to meet virtually.

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