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📌 When banning becomes a Trainwreck

The week in content moderation - edition #7

This week’s edition is out later than usual this week because so don’t have internet at my new flat so I’m catching up with myself. Aiming to be better next week.

I’ve also helped launch a new newsletter as part of my job at the EJC. If you’re interested in journalism, trust and audiences, you might enjoy it.

Thanks for reading — BW

Explanation vs enforcement

You know what they say: you never forget the same of your first love or the first notorious community member you banned. I’ll save you the story of my teenage broken heart but I will tell you about Eddie Storey.

He was a subscriber to The Times when I joined the paper as communities editor in 2010 and regularly left provocative comments on football match reports in which he slated rivals of his favourite team, Liverpool. Occasionally he’d veer into the news and politics sections and on any given month, he would leave upwards of 3000 comments, over 100 a day.

I ended up getting to know Eddie pretty well. He was the subject of dozens of emails I received each week, half of which called for him to be banned and the rest (from him) politely defended his right to post. I was intrigued so I arranged a call and spent an hour talking with him about his teaching business in Sweden, where he lived, and why he posted so much. His reasons seemed genuine (ex-pat, time on his hands, bit of fun) and so he was allowed to continue commenting when, if the participation guidelines, were applied, he probably shouldn’t have.

Eddie’s name came back to me this week when I saw his name in the comments under an article (I can’t remember which) and then read about the aptly named Trainwrecks.

If his name is unfamiliar to you, Trainwrecks is a Twitch user whose frequent misogynistic rants have led him to be banned from the platform on multiple occasions, including this week.

As The Verge’s story notes, it’s not clear whether the ban is indefinite. Twitch’s community guidelines say his behaviour deserves as much, and this has caused consternation among other users . Trainwrecks himself certainly seems to think he’ll be back.

What ties Eddie and Trainwrecks together is the fact both have profited from confusion about how rules are enforced, rather than simply explained. Even though it's clear that crossing a line leads to a ban, it doesn't always mean that a ban is applied.

Different reasons creep in (Eddie’s polite nature on the phone or Trainwrecks status as part of Twitch’s Partner Program) and the rest of the community is left confused.

In essence, no-one wins.

History's view of Alex Jones

I’m not a regular reader of Hustler and even if I was, it’s likely I wouldn’t know it’s publisher, Larry Flynt, who won numerous legal cases involving the First Amendment. But I was struck by academic and author Tarleton Gillespie’s thread on the legal challenges Alex Jones has brought against PayPal (including that he can't be banned for things he did off platform).

Not forgetting..

I was a content moderator. The lawsuit against Facebook has merit.

Social media platforms and their contractors must do better to protect their moderators.

Remember the PTSD lawsuit story about Selena Scola I included here a few weeks ago? A former Facebook third party content moderator called Jessica Swarner has published on Medium that she had the same symptoms and still has panic attacks.

Reddit 'quarantines' white supremacist, incel, holocaust denier, and other gross subreddits / Boing Boing

Women-hating MRAs and Incels, Holocaust Deniers, 9/11 Truthers, and snuff video fetishists on Reddit got harder to find today.

Finding subreddits about fetishists and Holocaust deniers became more difficult after Reddit updated their quarantine policy. What’s perhaps surprising is that it affects a far left political subreddit rather than any conservative voices. Donald will be delighted.

Twitter Releases New Policy on 'Dehumanizing Speech' | WIRED

The social network is also soliciting public feedback for the first time in updating its rules.

From the end of this year, Twitter will no longer allow statements like "all (insert group of people) are scum and should die”. This week it announced it's updating its policy on dehumanising speech.

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