These Brave Corporations Did What No Social Platforms Could Do, And I’m Weeping
There’s this cliché in crime movies where the ace FBI agent steps under the yellow caution tape surrounding the scene of a murder and tells the bumbling local police, “OK, boys, we’ll take it from here.”
For over a decade now, when it comes to content moderation, social media platforms have played the cop — accidentally shooting themselves in the dick with their own gun, letting the bad guys operate with impunity, doling out mere speeding tickets to Mafia capos, and barely bothering to dust the donut crumbs off themselves when law-abiding citizens come in to file a noise complaint.
Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have failed over and over to stamp out hate groups, disinformation, and the QAnon mass delusion, allowing them to fester and metastasize into our politics and culture. The mob that stormed the Capitol was a manifestation of this failure: organized online, bloated on disinformation smoothies gavage-fed to them via “up next” sidebars, and whipped into a frenzy by the poster in chief everyone knew the mods wouldn't ever touch. That there were some people who were immune to the platforms' moderation was common knowledge; the companies spent years designing contorted "community standards," endlessly writing and rewriting their content moderation guidelines, and establishing supreme courts to review, approve, and legitimize each decision.
And then the FBI stepped under that yellow tape.
In the end, it was the big-money brands that had never dirtied themselves with the thankless and dismal task of moderating posts and banning users that stepped in. Capitalism drained the fever swamp.
The right to free speech is fundamental, but it is not absolute or — crucially — free from consequences. This is something Amazon, Apple, and Google have made definitively clear in acting the way they have. Which makes it all the more lol that the platforms whose business is content have struggled for so long. No one wants the decisions about what we see online to be made by opaque corporations. But this is what happened and where we are right now.https://web.archive.org/web/20210126023821/https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/katienotopoulos/moderPost too long. Click here to view the full text.