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📌 Well done for surviving Doomsday

The week in content moderation - edition #66

Hello everyone — I hope your week (and your eyesight) has been better than a certain Mr Cummings'.

A big welcome to new subscribers from Stanford and West End Strategy. Thanks for joining the party.

This week’s edition is platform-heavy because, well, the President of the United States is on the rampage.

Stay safe and thanks for reading — BW

💥 The beginning and the end, at once

A few years ago, a friend recommended that I watch a documentary called ‘Doomsday: 10 Ways the World Will End’, produced by The History Channel.

I half-watched it a few months later when I was bored at home and followed up with the obligatory YouTube deep-dive. While I don’t remember a lot about the actual programme, I couldn’t forget a scientist — who I’m now reminded is astrophysicist Greg Laughlin — give a great quote about life on Earth ending via an interplanetary collision:

It would be the height of irony if the Earth were to meet its end through the collision with a rogue planet, given that it met it's beginning, in some sense, with a collision.

That quote came back to me on Tuesday after Twitter finally bit the bullet and fact-checked the President of the United States for posting misleading information, this time about postal ballots.

It was just as Professor Laughlin had forewarned: a giant planet-sized object meeting its end in the same way that it came into being. Ironic indeed. And a sure sign of Doomsday.

That wasn’t the only portent we witnessed on Tuesday though. A host of content moderation developments took place that gave the 26th May 2020 a kind of 'end of days' moment. In the same 24 hours that Twitter fronted up Trump:

  • China removed a WeChat account — called Zhidao Xuegong, meaning 'Scholar Forum for Ultimate Truth' — for posting false information about the United States including that citizens dying from COVID-19 were being made into burgers.
  • YouTube blamed a 'technical error’ for the deletion of Chinese language comments containing the words 共匪” (“communist bandit”) or “五毛” (“50-cent party”).
  • Twitter refused to remove tweets by Trump about the death of Lori Klausutis in 2001, despite a letter by her widower to CEO Jack Dorsey. (Kara Swisher wrote more about this in the NYT)

Not one seismic event but four. All likely to have significant and long-lasting reverberations. In less than one day. Yes, it might not be the Sun turning into a giant red ball and engulfing the Earth but you could argue that it's the internet equivalent.

If you’re reading this, well done — you survived Tuesday’s content moderation Doomsday. Until, at least, another of Donald Trump’s tweets receives a blue exclamation mark.

Update: The much-mooted executive order has materialised since I wrote this on Thursday. The Verge's Casey Newton has more.

🇮🇳 Indian law and order

If you enjoyed last week’s newsletter on India's growing momentum for content regulation, you’ll also be interested in this mini-interview by The Quint with Dr Sudhir Krishnawarmy, vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India University in Bengalur and a recent appointee to Facebook’s Oversight Board.

What is noteworthy is that Dr Krishnawarmy doesn’t think the board, which has been criticised by many, is ground-breaking. It is, in his words, a "bold and interesting experiment in content moderation and content policy”. Nothing more, nothing less.

I can get on board with that assessment (sorry sorry).

Reminder: you can find all board members on this Twitter list that I put together.

🐘 Not forgetting...

A very good piece from The Wall Street Journal on Facebook’s failed initiatives to address online abuse and algorithmic-induced harm, which have funny names like 'Common Ground', 'Eat Your Veggies' and 'Sparing Sharing'.

Facebook Executives Shut Down Efforts to Make the Site Less Divisive - WSJ

The social-media giant internally studied how it polarizes users and how it might address the resulting harms, then largely shelved the research.

Grace McKenzie of Gather (a Slack community of journalists) has shared some great tips for recruiting community members to act as mods.

What We Learned From Starting the Gather Slack ModSquad

When we started Gather Slack in early 2018, the idea was that it would be a place for our community of practice, to, well, gather and engage with one another. At that point, Gather as a site was just…

I’m glad to see Instagram’s arbitrary fatphobic mod processes being written about again, especially when featuring insight from the awesome Kat Lo.

Influencers Say Instagram Is More Likely To Remove Photos Of Plus-Size Bodies, And They May Be Right

Plus-size influencers have long complained about their posts being flagged on social media, and there are a few reasons why it might be happening.

EFF's David Kaye and Jillian C. York add some historical context to the challenges of content moderation during COVID-19.

This week's Twitch mini-moderation drama comes courtesy of Pokimane and an unwitting porn video.

Pokimane Responds to Those Demanding She Be Banned From Twitch After Showing Porn on a Livestream

Imane 'Pokimane' Anys is one of the biggest streamers on Twitch, and right now many are calling for her to be banned from the streaming platform after she accidentally showed pornography during a recent stream, which is a clear violation of Twitch's streaming rules, and is a violation that has [...]

Das Nettz — a German interdisciplinary network of experts working against hate speech — is looking for speakers and session ideas for its upcoming event in October.

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