The use of E2E encrypted platforms in the Global South is extremely popular. WhatsApp is the most used App in Zimbabwe and accounts for 44% of mobile app use. Our Everything In Moderation project has been exploring moderation of online E2E encrypted platforms in the UK/EU context, in particular focusing on the challenges faced by service providers and policy makers, generated by and associated with fake news, hate speech and inflammatory content. We have also been working on a sister project to explore the same issues within the Zimbabwean context. The Trends an Challenges: moderation of E2E encrypted communication in Zimbabwe project is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund and runs in collaboration with the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT). Our lead collaborator at HIT is Calvin Mugauri (Lecturer in Information Security and Assurance). We were delighted to welcome Calvin to Nottingham last week for a knowledge exchange visit, to learn more about the University here and explore options for further collaborations.
Calvin outside Horizon, Geospatial Building, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham
Calvin has conducted 20 interviews in Zimbabwe, talking to professional stakeholders about the moderation of WhatsApp and other E2E encrypted spaces. The next phase of our collaboration will be to analyse these interview transcripts and map out different moderation solutions.
As part of our collaboration with HIT, we launched a competition in March for undergraduate students there. The students, mostly studying computer science and cyber security, were asked to work in a team (up to 4 members) and submit ideas choosing a key challenge to the moderation of online communication in E2E encrypted spaces. Eleven teams submitted a written outline and we selected 6 teams to prepare a short video (maximum 5 minutes), to explain the challenge and how they would address it. We are impressed with the quality of the material and the hard work of the students, and are currently going through the judging process. Winner(s) will be announced in due course and selected videos will be featured on our project website and Horizon YouTube channel.
E2E encryption is extremely topical in the media at present. For example, the story involving WhatsApp and the UK regulator Ofcom potentially requiring the application of moderation policies that would be impossible to comply with without the removal of E2E encryption. It is therefore important that we, as researchers investigating this space, keep informed of the guidance being provided and regulation. Members of our team attended the launch of Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity and an online event ‘Beyond online safety: AI, web3, and the Metaverse’.
These recent events demonstrate that the moderation of online content – in private and open spaces – continues to present many challenges to contemporary society. These challenges combine the technical with the social/political and require careful attention and reflection – which our research can assist with.
Our next steps involve writing up our project findings and identifying their potential for academic and practical impact. These will be disseminated to relevant audiences.Tags: E2E, encryption, end to end encyryption, Harare Institute, knowledge exchange, metaverse, moderation, online, policy makers, WhatsApp, Zimbabwe
Horizon Digital Economy Research, University of
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