3 min read

📌 Over to you, Arun

The week in content moderation - edition #27

Hello to new subscribers from Social Spider and Ofcom and a special thank you to Giuseppe, who kindly bought me my first ko-fi last week. Details at the end of this week’s edition if you’d like to do the same.

This week, I’ve been in Berlin running an event for 100+ European folks doing engaged journalism. It has been both energising and knackering in equal measure but it was great to see so many familiar faces. Take a look at the reaction.

Thanks for reading — BW

Moving chairs on the Titanic

Back in February, Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of global operations, wrote about something that Big Blue don’t discuss very often: their commitment to ‘our content reviewers’.

Casey Newton had just published a piece on The Verge about a content review centre in Arizona owned and operated by one of Facebook’s partners Cognizant. It didn’t make for good reading.

But Justin’s post gave a sense that things would change. A new ‘rigorous and regular compliance and audit process’ tallied with focus groups with vendor employees and a partner summit to ‘align our expectations and build best practices’ would all be headed up by a new VP of Scaled Operations, Arun Chandra, formerly of Hewlett Packard. Maybe this was a turning point?

That summit took place (presumably with Cognizant present) and was mentioned in glowing terms by Chandra and Janelle Gale, VP of HR, in a blog post in May.

Over 200 representatives from our vendor partners around the world joined us to discuss these changes and consider other ways we can better support our content reviewers. We heard great feedback and will continue to make important changes moving forward as these conversations continue.

Sounds positive, no?

But it begs the question: why, less than three months after this supposedly successful summit, was Newton able to publish another long piece about about workers at Cognizant suffering discrimination and harassment, working within faeces smeared walls and seeing co-workers having heart attacks at their desks? (The piece, published this week with quotes from Chandra, is good and worth your time).

Did Cognizant not understand Facebook correctly? Maybe the message did not filter down to manages at the Florida office? Perhaps it was wilfully ignored? It's anyone's guess.

There’s a further twist: last month, Chandra was promoted to VP of Global Operations when Osofsky moved to become COO of Instagram (deck chairs? Titanic? Anyone?). On his LinkedIn profile, Chandra notes that he has "Evolved the partnership model with the network of global partners to a strategic approach based on mutual accountability.” Pretty bold claim to make at a time like this.

If there has been any change in the time Chandra has been managing vendor partnerships at everyone's least-favourite social network, Newton's piece proves there's still a mighty long way to go.

PS There’s very little public information about Facebook’s moderation contracts, which makes it very difficult to report on. To combat that, I’m slowly collecting information about Facebook’s third-party vendors and contractors. I’ve made the document open and would love your help to build it out.

Not forgetting...

Nice read from Kevin Roose at the New York Times on Caleb Cain, a 26-year-old who watched 4,000 YouTube videos, many of them conspiracy theories

The Making of a YouTube Radical - The New York Times

Caleb Cain was a college dropout looking for direction. He turned to YouTube, where he was pulled into a world filled with conspiracy theories, misogyny and racism.

Tarleton Gillespie, the author of Custodians of the Internet, tries to unpick the YouTube Crowder/Maza saga  (last week's EiM)

NYT columnist Sarah Jeong reminds me why I started this newsletter in the first place in this piece on YouTube:

It’s driving home for a lot of people who don’t necessarily follow tech the way that we do that the internet platforms are the primary battlegrounds of the culture wars, and that content moderation is going to be at the heart of it.

YouTube Is a Very Bad Judge and Jury - The New York Times

Nobody knows how to run YouTube. Especially not YouTube.

Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO, apparently mentioned 'policies' 14 times, according to Alexis Madrigal (see also: private rules or open standards, EiM #11)

Facebook's and YouTube's 'Platform' Excuse Is Dying - The Atlantic

For years, tech companies have relied on a rhetorical sleight of hand. It’s not working anymore.

Ev Williams, founder and CEO of Medium, says they have a hardline policy on moderation

Medium CEO Outlines Publishing Platform's 'Aggressive' Content Moderation Policies

"If someone is harassing someone on Twitter and they post on Medium, we take them off," Evan Williams explains.

Pinterest ban anti-abortion group Live Action in the latest step to prevent health-related misinformation

Andres Guadamuz, Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Sussex, on an interesting case going through the Court of Justice of the European Union about Facebook moderation

Looking for the elusive Goldilocks standard of online content moderation – TechnoLlama

Everything in Moderation is a weekly newsletter about content moderation and the policies, products, platforms and people shaping its future.