3 min read

📌 The rise of in-app warnings, Parler's CEO fired and new political bias study

The week in content moderation - edition #98

Welcome to Everything in Moderation, your weekly newsletter about content moderation sustainably powered by me, Ben Whitelaw.

Smart people from Open Society Foundations, The Washington Post and elsewhere, welcome to your first edition of EiM. Say hi and let me know how you found about the newsletter (and what you'd improve).

It's a product-heavy edition this week as platforms release features to address the problems we've seen emerge over the last six months (and arguably much longer). Here's what you need to know — BW

📜 Policies - company guidelines and speech regulation

Calls of conservative political bias, particularly in the US, have soared in the last few years. But a new study from New York University has found that social media in fact aids the spread of conservative viewpoints. Paul Barrett, the report's author, used data from NewsWhip and Crowdtangle to track right-wing claims and told Forbes is it 'difficult for a fair-minded person to say that they are going after conservatives'.

The Polish government this week published a draft bill designed to overhaul how networks remove content and ban users. Interestingly, the legislation proposes the establishment of a new Freedom of Speech Council which will consider the case within seven days. A bit like a speedier version of the Oversight Board, then.

💡 Products - features and functionality

Pornhub has announced that it will introduce a biometric verification system for uploaders, more moderator training and support and a transparency report following The New York Times' investigation into underage videos on the site (EiM #95). The jokes, as you can imagine, have come thick and fast.

TikTok, in a bid to reduce inauthentic content and misinformation, has announced that it will tell users if a video appears fake and will warn them if they try to share it. The announcement, announced on its blog on Wednesday, follows similar attempts by Twitter to nudge users into reading links before sharing them.

💬 Platforms - dominant digital platforms

First Draft, the mis and dis-information non-profit, has a good read on Birdwatch, Twitter's recently announced crowdsourced moderation pilot. As well as flagging possible flaws, like baking in bias and falling foul to brigading, authors Madelyn Webb and Bethan John have looked at the first Birdwatch dataset released by Twitter and found several initial challenges (including little to no upvoting).

Axios, the influential tech site, argued this week that Birdwatch and the Oversight Board constitute 'outsourcing its hardest content moderation decisions'. Which is ironic because both platforms have been literally doing that for years already (see EiM #68)

👥 People - those shaping the future of content moderation

John Matze, Parler's co-founder, is only 27-years-old but has lived a thousand internet lives. Since the US Capitol riots in January and the removal of Parler's app from Apple and Google's play stores for its approach (or lack of one) to moderation, the free speech advocate has been in the spotlight more than ever.

That continued this week as Matze was fired as CEO as a result of disagreements with the board about the future of the network's speech policy. Details are a little sketchy and it seems like there's a been a rift with the app's funders so it will be interesting to see what made them push young John out.

🐦 Tweets of note

  • 'Something is very broken. And it’s silencing journalism' - Acting Mail and Guardian editor-in-chief Sipho Kings notes the irony of the paper's African editor being suspended for tweeting about another account that was suspended without explanation.
  • "We're taking a break from tweeting about lingerie today to have an important conversation about TikTok" - lingerie company Adore Me created a stir yesterday with a thread about how videos of plus-size models have been removed from its profile, no surprises here, without explanation.
  • "Can you imagine Twitter or any other platform company doing something like this in the US, France, or Germany?" - Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute, reflects on the suspension of several Twitter accounts with, you guessed it, absolutely no explanation.

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