3 min read

📌 Private rules or open standards? 🇺🇸

The week in content moderation - edition #11

Welcome to a few familiar names from Twitter, who I’m glad to have over here as well. It's not quite as fast-paced but I hope you'll enjoy it.

This time next week, I’ll be in the US for the People-Powered Publishing Conference in Chicago. If anyone has any suggestions of places to eat, people to grab a beer with or moderation practices to observe while I’m there, I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading — BW

The Matthew Prince dilemma

Does the name Matthew Prince ring any bells? He’s the CEO of Cloudflare, the hosting business that pulled the plug on the far-right site The Daily Stormer from the web last year. Hold him in your mind for a minute.

Now, let me explain a little about Change The Terms (CTT).

CTT is a coalition of civil rights, media and legislative organisations who got fed up about certain groups on the internet (women, people of colour, LGBTQ) suffering hate speech on the internet, often at the hands of far-right advocates. The poorly enforced rules and inadequate appeals policy of the big social networks, they said, were finished.

They spent nine months consulting a wide range of organisations and came up with a policy with six areas that they believe Google, Facebook et al could do better: enforcement, right to appeal, transparency, evaluation and training, governance and authority and state actors, bots and trolls. I read it and thought it solid and sensible work (it's worth taking a look too). Over forty organisations have signed on in support.

The only problem is that the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a longstanding and respected civil liberties organisation, disagree (at least with some of CTT).

They’ve said that making it the job of a whole long list of intermediaries to police free speech is dangerous and goes against users expectations of services online. The result, they say, is 'a thoroughly locked-down, highly monitored web, from which a speaker can be effectively ejected at any time, without any path to address concerns prior to takedown.' Yikes.

Why does this matter? Well, the internet is coming out of its adolescent phase and how it evolves comes down to the question of private accountability or open standards. This tension between Change The Terms and EFF is the tug of war in a nutshell. The issue with that is that there are good arguments on both sides and where you sit depends a great deal on your future vision of the internet.

So, why is Matthew Prince relevant? Well, in a note to staff after he pulled down Nazi-affiliated site, he admitted he had woken up in ‘a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.” And, just last month, in the latest version of Wired, he said: "I don’t think my whims, and those of Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg should determine what’s online”.

I don’t really know where I sit in this debate — there's a lot of rational thinking on either side — so I'll continue to read around the topic. But I do know that I don't want Matthew and his like deciding what we can and can't read on the web. So on that we agree.

Not forgetting...

Last week, I looked at the problems posed by emoji after a session at COMO raised some interesting points. Another attendee of the same conference, Josh Marshall has posted his session with Buzzfeed's Ben Smith on media and the First Amendment for us all to enjoy again.

You Might Find This Interesting – Talking Points Memo

Or maybe not. Ben Smith and I were on a panel a couple weeks ago at a conference about content moderation, the press, the 1st amendment, yada yada.

Is Instagram really a refuge of the far-right? I thought it was all about design/interiors/pets. I'm so naive.

Instagram Is the Alt-Right’s New Favorite Haven

Instagram hosts accounts from prominent right-wingers who have already been banned from Twitter and Facebook.

RPGNet, one of the oldest games communities on the web, has banned all mention of he-who-shall-not-be-named because they think there's nothing good to come from it.

One of the Oldest Online RPG Communities Banned Pro-Trump Speech - Motherboard

What a small community of role-playing games fans can teach us about the traps of 'political neutrality.'

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