Sign in

The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Content Moderation

In OneZero. More on Medium.

Big Technology

Some call it a scam. Others say it’s the best available option. Either way, the Facebook Oversight Board is about to decide whether Trump can use Facebook.

Over the next few weeks, the biggest tech story will be the Facebook Oversight Board’s ruling on Donald Trump. Facebook suspended Trump indefinitely following the Capitol Riots earlier this year. And now the board — a 19-member body that can review and overturn Facebook’s content decisions — is about to decide whether to bring him back.

As we enter a frenzied news cycle over the board’s decision, the key question underlying it all will be whether we can trust this new entity, which Facebook set up last year.

Some call the board a necessary, Supreme Court-style institution that brings the…

Lawmakers should listen to the communities most affected before rushing to change Section 230 again

This op-ed was written by Cathy Reisenwitz, vice president of communications at the San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club. She writes regularly at Sex and the State, a newsletter about power. Connect with Cathy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and OnlyFans.

Big Tech’s haphazard content moderation and abuse of personal data create real harms — enabling surveillance, online stalking, harassment, and revenge porn. The Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism, and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act, introduced by Democrats last month, is supposed to force platforms to do a better job of moderating content. …

A grotesque segment mocking Black farmers illustrates just how much bigotry a conservative star can get away with

An overtly racist video by conservative YouTube star Steven Crowder did not violate YouTube’s hate speech policy, the company told OneZero, though it has been taken down for other reasons. The stance highlights the broad leeway for bigotry in the platform’s moderation rules, even as it cracks down on certain categories of content, such as Covid-19 misinformation.

In a March 16 livestream, Steven Crowder and his co-hosts on the show Louder With Crowder — which has 5.4 million subscribers — performed grotesque caricatures of Black people. The bits were part of a segment mocking provisions in the new U.S. Covid-19…

Pattern Matching

Social networks would love to show users less political content. Here’s why that’s a problem.

Political posts on Facebook and other social networks are often divisive, misleading, or just plain false. Social platforms including Facebook and YouTube have played a role in radicalizing people and facilitated the organization of radical groups, including hate groups, some of which have committed real-world violence.

There is reason to believe that social networks have not merely played passive host to these developments, which have been implicated in the decline of democratic institutions in the U.S. and abroad, but have actively fueled them with feed-ranking and recommendation algorithms that systemically amplify sensational claims and outrage-bait over nuance and balanced reporting.

Big Technology

‘They’re going to have to prepare now about how to resist the onslaught that absolutely will be coming in their direction`

OneZero is partnering with the Big Technology Podcast from Alex Kantrowitz to bring readers exclusive access to interview transcripts — edited for length and clarity — with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast.

In January, I wrote a story for OneZero about the content moderation war in store for smaller social platforms like Clubhouse, Spotify, and Substack. As part of my reporting, I reached out to Glenn Greenwald, a strident voice against moderation who left The…

Pattern Matching

Birdwatch and the Oversight Board are new approaches to the same idea: shifting responsibility away from the platforms themselves

In the never-ending scramble to solve the insoluble problem of content moderation, social media companies are willing to try just about anything — as long as it doesn’t involve making it a core part of their business.

Contrasting approaches were on display this week from Facebook and Twitter. Facebook’s Oversight Board, a semi-independent body that it created as a sort of appeals court for content moderation decisions, ruled on its first slate of five cases. …

App stores and cloud hosting platforms want the right to ban content without the responsibility of moderation

When app stores and cloud hosting platforms banned Parler earlier this month after the self-described “free speech” social network failed to moderate calls for violence, they set a new precedent. Previously, the conventional wisdom was that developers bore the responsibility of policing an app’s community. After all, the developer is in the best position to know what its users need, what they’re up to, and how to build the specific moderation tools that work best for its community.

But with the Parler bans, companies that hosted the app — in an app store, on web hosting, or in a domain…

Congress asked the FBI to investigate the app’s role in promoting ‘civil unrest’ in the U.S. — but the entire social media ecosystem demands scrutiny

The House Oversight and Reform Committee chair demanded on Thursday that the FBI “conduct a robust examination” of Parler and its alleged role in the Capitol riots on January 6, which resulted in the deaths of five individuals and for which hundreds of people are being investigated by the Justice Department.

In a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray published by the Washington Post, the committee’s chairwoman and New York Representative Carolyn Maloney asked the agency to consider Parler as “a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence, as a repository of key evidence posted by users…

The game’s sudden popularity caught the small development team by surprise — and now there’s a lot of work to be done

At any given moment, there are tens of thousands of people playing Among Us on Steam, the largest platform for PC gaming. Many more join them on their mobile phones and Nintendo Switches. All told, half a billion people reportedly play the game every month. It’s a sprawling player base that’s largely based around text interactions — you complete tasks as a team of colorful astronauts, convening every now and again to root out imposters attempting to sabotage your mission.

It’s also almost entirely unmoderated. Innersloth — the four-person team behind the game — is working with limited resources to…

In another era, Parler would have owned its servers—and remained online

When Amazon Web Services decided to stop hosting the alt-right social network Parler last week following the insurrection at the Capitol, it looked like the site was doomed to go offline.

Migrating an app successfully between cloud providers, and ensuring it works on the other side as expected, is hard enough. But moving the vast amounts of data associated with a social network (likely hundreds of terabytes of information) would be agonizingly slow, taking far longer than the 24-hour warning Amazon gave Parler.

Unfortunately for Parler, virtually every other vendor was ditching them as well. With cloud providers rejecting them…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store