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President Trump’s tweets charging that Google search results are biased, against him and against conservatives, are the loudest and latest version of a growing attack on search engines and social media platforms. It is potent, and it’s almost certainly wrong. But it comes at an unfortunate time, just as a more thoughtful and substantive challenge to the impact of Silicon Valley tech companies has finally begun to emerge. If someone were truly concerned about free speech, news, and how platforms subtly reshape public participation, they would be engaging these deeper questions. …


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What do we expect of content moderation? And what do we expect of platforms?

There is an undeniable need, now more than ever, to reconsider the public responsibilities of social media platforms. For too long, platforms have enjoyed generous legal protections and an equally generous cultural allowance, to be “mere conduits” not liable for what users post to them. …


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The leaked Facebook documents offer a glimpse of the banality of evil, the unresolvable challenges of content moderation, and argue strongly for moderation to come out into the open.

I’ve been trying to write a comment about the leaked Facebook documents published by The Guardian this week. The documents, part of the training materials that Facebook provides to independently contracted moderators, instruct them on what they should remove and what should stay, across a wide variety of categories. But it’s hard not to feel disheartened by them, in too many ways.

They’re hard to read, peppered with examples that almost certainly came from actual material Facebook moderators have had to consider. Evil is banal, and the evil available on Facebook is banal on a much, much wider scale. …

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