3 min read

📌 You can comment but it’ll cost you

The week in content moderation - edition #3

Hello to new faces from Wan Ifra and ANWB which, to be honest, has always been my favourite Dutch travelling association. Good to have you on board.

I've fiddled around with the formatting of the links - let me know if you have strong views.

Thanks for reading — BW


The price of participation

For the few months, the debate had been about what is being said. Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, hate speech, right wing political views, nipples and Holocaust denial; all of them have led to a discussion about the policies, processes and products that (try to) maintain civility and prevent misinformation online.

That’s starting to shift a little. In the past week, the debate about what gets published on the web has become more about who can say it: what do they know, what have they done or said before and who have they said it to. To coin Warren Buffett's phrase, what skin do they have in the game?

This has partly come about following news that Facebook has created a fact check score to help them prioritise their response to flagged posts and thus get to the real fake news faster. Critics have dubbed it a trust score and likened it to China’s social credit system but that's stretching things — plus moderation software has long come with features about a user's history.

They're not the only ones looking at the problem in this way. Popula, a news organisation built on Civil, a protocol for journalism, (full disclosure: I will be working with Civil as part of my role at the EJC) is said to be working towards a system where only CVL token holders can contribute below the line.

We plan to create a system where you can only comment if you’re a subscriber, and it will cost some tiny bit of money to make a comment; all your comments would also be able to gather tips. We also have a plan to pool all of the tips from comments and return some percentage to the whole subscriber base so activity on the platform benefits everyone who subscribes, even passive readers.

The idea looks to correct the nothing-to-lose attitude that comes from commenting on any news site, page or profile right now, where the worst thing that happens is that the comment comes down. It’s a way off but sounds like a new look at an old problem.

Jack Dorsey also hinted at something similar when he said in (yet another) interview that he wanted to 'look deeper at the incentives that we’re providing people (to have a conversation)’ beyond comments to a tweet. Reddit already do this to a large degree.

Are we at the very start of a reputation race where all your previous irate comments count against you, preventing you from contributing online unless you pay for the privilege? Let's see.

Strong words

‘There is always going to be casualties’: Not an army general on the inevitabilities of war but Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management, Monica Bickart, speaking on a recent RadioLab podcast about the community guidelines that underpin discussion on the 2.2 million people strong network. Better arm up, then.

Not forgetting..

Why Facebook needs a Supreme Court for content moderation - The Verge

The company’s history with tricky decisions shows a need for outside expertise.

Casey Newton reminded me in his very good newsletter that Mark Zuckerberg said in April 2018 that he foresaw a Supreme Court-style-body that decides what constitutes acceptable on Facebook. Entertaining that idea for a minute, who would be in it? Reply with your suggestions..

The first Content Moderation and Removal at Scale conference (Have you been? Let me know if so) took place earlier this year and, over the course of a few months came up with the Santa Clara Principles for companies to adopt to ensure moderation is ‘fair, unbiased, proportional and respectful of users’ rights. No one has committed to following them as far as I know but they are a sensible starter for ten.

Malaysia scraps 'fake news' law used to stifle free speech

Critics say legislation was deployed during Najib Razak’s time in office to silence criticism

A Malaysian law introduced earlier this year under the guise of fixing fake news has been scrapped by the incoming government

Kelly Marie Tran: I Won’t Be Marginalized by Online Harassment

The “Star Wars” actress was “brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval.”

In June, Kelly Marie Tran, the Vietnamese-American Star Wars actress, left Instagram abruptly. Now she’s written about the effect of being on the receiving 24/7 abuse


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