3 min read

📌 The Trump dump, joining mod academy and being Monika Bickert

The week in content moderation - edition #94

Welcome to Everything in Moderation, your weekly newsletter about content moderation imperfectly put together by me, Ben Whitelaw.

Hello to new subscribers from Human Rights Watch, Open Media, AccessNow and elsewhere. Glad to have you here.

It's been one hell of a week, especially for those of you living in or with connections to the United States. I've added a special section on the platform aftermath of the events at Capitol Hill. My thoughts are with you all — BW

🇺🇸 How the platforms dealt with Donald

You might have heard of the 'Trump bump'; well, this was the Trump dump.

If you're just catching up, this is how the platforms have responded to this week's events in Washington (as of Friday morning GMT):

  • Twitter - Trump's account suspended for 12 hours (following calls by members of its own Trust and Safety Board). However, Trump was back tweeting yesterday after three tweets that violated its Civic Integrity policy were deleted.
  • Facebook - followed suit, first with a 24-hour 'feature block' and then yesterday, a two-week suspension that also applied to Instagram. It also asked Group admins to approve posts before they go up.
  • YouTube - removed one of Trump's videos and announced it would more quickly suspend accounts posting videos alleging voter fraud, a move which was billed as 'lacklustre' by Google's recently launched employee union.
  • Twitch - caught up with the pack by yesterday disabling Trump's account for two weeks, preventing him from streaming until after Joe Biden's inauguration.
  • Shopify - yesterday announced it had removed Trump's campaign store for violating its policy on inciting violence.

What happens next? Well, Kevin Roose at the New York Times has reported that Twitter and Facebook are expected to ban him permanently although Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information newsletter, doesn't think it's the answer. All a bit unclear at this stage.

And the takeaway? As OneZero's Will Oremus notes, the striking thing is the inconsistency of it all. As he explains:

"The unprecedented move, which lacks a clear basis in any of Facebook’s previously stated policies, highlights for the millionth time that the dominant platforms are quite literally making up the rules of online speech as they go along."

What we do know is that the ramifications of this past week won't be fully known for a long time yet.

📜 Policies - company guidelines and speech regulation

Canada is drawing inspiration from incoming legislation in the UK and Europe to create regulation that will require platforms to remove illegal content within 24 hours. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instigated the process back in 2019 but it has gained new momentum following the recent New York Times' story about Pornhub, which is owned by Montreal-based company, MindGeek.

💡 Products - features and functionality

I forgot to include this in last week's newsletter but I love this idea (and have written about similar ideas in the past) that I can't not mention it: Discord has launched a Moderator Academy so users 'can find resources to learn about moderation, community management, and more'. Absolutely fantastic. I look forward to giving it a go.

💬 Platforms - dominant digital platforms

YouTube banned digital radio station TalkRadio from its platform for 12 hours, before suddenly reinstating it following the removal of 'flagged content that violates [YouTube's] Community Guidelines'. The station, which is owned by News UK, is regulated by Ofcom — ironically, the proposed regulator of the impending UK Online Harms Bill.

👥 People - those shaping the future of content moderation

Monika Bickert, Facebook's Head of Global Policy Management, is pretty elusive considering her role.

The former US Assistant Attorney doesn't tweet (at least under her real name) and doesn't give many interviews (a Q&A in November was a rare appearance). But, having given presentations to the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News (EiM #40) and written Facebook's white paper on regulation back in February 2020 (EiM #52), it's clear Bickert is at the heart of much of Facebook's decision making.

As you might expect, Bickert played a central role in yesterday's staff briefing. During the meeting, she insisted Trump's ban was 'an executive decision', according to a leak. Imagine making that call.

I don't envy her and wish her, and other folks in policy positions, the best of luck as they work out what this week means for them and their platform's users.

🐦 Tweets of note

  • 'We’re going to see a lot of movement re: platform moderation & enforcement over the next few years.' - GoDaddy's community lead Andy McIlwain speculates that this week will herald a notable change in platform policies.
  • 'Moderating before we got to this point, would have been a great accomplishment.' - WSJ's community and email newsletter guru Annemarie Dooling throws some shade the way of the platforms.
  • 'I don’t know a single disinfo journalist who actually wanted to spend their time doing free and adversarial content moderation for $800 billion dollar companies' - Guardian tech reporter Julia Carrie Wong expresses some relief at this week's banhammer.

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