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The week in content moderation - edition #40

Hello everyone (especially new folks from The Sunday Times and Coconuts Media) and well done for making it through another mad week of news.

The audio recommendations seem to go down pretty well so here’s two for you: Kate Klonick, law professor at St John’s University, on Mark Zuckerberg’s Georgetown speech about freedom of expression (12mins) while Lawfare’s new podcast series (also featuring Kate) on disinformation and misinformation in the run-up to the 2020 US election (38mins).

Thanks for moderating — BW

All eyes on Ireland

Dublin, if you’re a tourist going at this time of year, is expensive, dreary and, if you find yourself near Temple Bar, often an unsightly place to be.*

So it’s somewhat apt that this week, the third meeting of the extravagantly named International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ (quote marks not mine) will take place at Leinster House on Wednesday and Thursday (check out the agenda).

The IGC, you may not remember, is the committee created by British MP Damian Collins to examine how an international framework for social media regulation could work. Previous meetings have taken place in London, UK and Ottawa, Canada and now it’s the turn of the European HQ of Facebook, Twitter and Google (apt eh?).

Why is it significant? For a bunch of reasons really:

  1. It’s the first time government officials from the US and Australia have joined the group, giving it significantly more clout than previously.
  2. Some of the platforms biggest names — including Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, director of public policy for YouTube, Marco Pancini, and even reportedly Zuck — will be giving presentations and answering questions.
  3. It’s the first significant meeting since it emerged this week (via Netzpolitik) that Leo Varadkar Irish Taoiseach, met over the summer with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to discuss content moderation and European expansion.
  4. The European Commission released a statement this week warning that tech companies were not making enough progress with removing unlawful content from their platforms. That will put pressure on the platforms in the room on Thursday, who (don't forget) have already been told that binding regulation is coming sometime during 2020.
  5. 5. The IGC has indicated that it wants the discussions to yield a 'set of principles to underpin international collaboration’, which could feasibly shape the platform’s community policies in the future

Principles or no principles, it’s worth keeping your eye trained on Dublin over the coming months. As well the question of European regulation, a number of big third party moderators employ hundreds of people in the city and there's the small matter of a number of 'psychological trauma’ cases making their way through the High Court (EiM #33, What makes Pinterest good at moderation?).

Capital of Ireland? More like the content moderation capital of the world.

Free speech

Columbia Journalism Review has been running an interesting series of web chats with experts on free speech this week. I haven’t read them all but I got a lot out of Renee Di Resta (Stanford Internet Observatory) and Jillian York (EFF director). Take a look and let me know what you thought.

Not forgetting...

Big news: Cognizant, one of Facebook’s third partner moderator firms, will exit the moderation market over the next 12 months. Two big sites will close in March. Casey Newton, who broke two stories about Cognizant earlier this year, goes into more detail in his newsletter.

Facebook content moderation vendor quits the business after Verge investigations - The Verge

Facebook moderators complained of filthy offices and severe mental health strain after working at Cognizant. Two offices that The Verge visited will close in 2020, the companies said.

Last week, I featured a profile of a Reddit mod. (EiM #39, I love ‘Anne’, r/relationship’s mode queen). This week, Technology Review has a profile of the system those mods use, ‘Automod’.

Reddit’s automoderator is the future of the internet, and deeply imperfect - MIT Technology Review

The good: AutoMod saves time and prevents potential mental health issues. The bad: Humans still have to clean up after it

Bad news for lustful Facebook and Instagram users — the peach and aubergine emojis (eggplant if you're a weirdo) have been banned following a change to Facebook community standards back in July (subsequently rolled out in September).

‘Sexual’ use of eggplant and peach emojis banned on Facebook, Instagram

In July, Facebook and Instagram quietly updated the Facebook Community Standards language regarding permissible sexual expression on the social media platforms. (These guidelines cover Instagram, too.)

Facebook is being used in India as a ‘megaphone for hate’ by the ruling Hindu-nationalist party against Bengali Muslims in the state of Assam, according to a rights group.

Facebook Has Become a 'Megaphone for Hate' Against Muslims in India - VICE

As millions of Indians are being stripped of their citizenship, rights groups say Facebook has given free rein to Hindu nationalist hate speech.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is not something I’m familiar with but this article makes a case for Facebook aligning its own community guidelines with it in a more meaningful way.

How Facebook Can Use International Law in Content Moderation - Lawfare

Speaking at Georgetown University on Oct. 17, Mark Zuckerberg said what many did not want to hear: Facebook would not be doing more to restrict “bad” speech

*I love Dublin, I have fond memories and it's where my grandad grew up - this just made for a half-decent intro

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