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Speech and Moderation

On today’s internet, the boundaries of acceptable speech are set by a few massive platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and a handful of others. If those companies find something unacceptable, it can’t travel far — a restriction that’s had a massive impact for everyone from copyright violators to sex workers. At the same time, vile content that doesn’t violate platform rules can find shockingly broad audiences, leading to a chilling rise in white nationalism and violent misogyny online. After years of outcry, platforms have grown more willing to ban the worst actors online, but each ban comes with a new political fight, and companies are slow to respond in the best of circumstances. As gleeful disinformation figures like Alex Jones gain power — and the sheer scale of these platforms begins to overwhelm moderation efforts — the problems have only gotten uglier and harder to ignore. At the same time, the hard questions of moderation are only getting harder.

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