Facebook & Twitter: The false assumption that content moderation will solve anything.

If one extracts the gist from a lot of the criticism that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are receiving these days, it often boils down to this: The companies cannot trust their algorithms to do the moderation of content, but if they only hire enough humans to make decisions about what can and cannot show up in people’s feeds, then everything would be fine again.

The idea that Facebook (the service, not the company) and Twitter can be saved if only they get moderation right, strikes me as fundamentally ignorant, as it misses the actual core problem: The fact that the most influential organizations in the world (maybe after those representing mainstream religions) are expected to make decisions about what can and cannot show up in people’s feeds, for a global, extremely heterogeneous audience, in the first place.

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Only people with the binary habit of constantly categorizing other individuals and actions with either “good” or “bad” can be under the assumption that Facebook or Twitter might be able to find a “sweet spot” of content policy which would not instantly collapse under massive contradictions, collateral damage and malicious exploitation.

The world has more than 200 countries, and its people represent probably tens of thousands of different cultures, world views, ideologies and schools of thought — each with its derived set of rules and behavioral norms. No matter how much pressure one exercises, this human complexity can never be adequately forced into one nicely looking, just and smoothly operating content policy corset created by a few companies which — on top of everything — are all headquartered within the same geographical area and cultural sphere of the planet.

If I am not missing something here, then what Facebook and Twitter are trying to do (to “please” the “good” people and prevent the “bad” from using its platform) is inevitably doomed to fail. Facebook has somewhat of a backup plan though (Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, rebuilding Facebook to focus away from polarizing day-to-day news and politics chatter). Twitter doesn’t.