Analysis & Opinions - JournalPosts

The Inexorable Push For Infrastructure Moderation

| Sep. 24, 2021

from the it's-coming-whether-we-like-it-or-not dept

I'm grateful to Techdirt and the EFF for this series. There are so many legitimately difficult issues around content moderation at the application layer—that is, on (and usually by) platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And they can crowd out the problems around the corner that are at least as difficult: those of code and content moderation at the infrastructural level, such as the wholesale platforms (such as Amazon Web Services) that host websites; domain name registries that support the use of domain names; and app stores from Apple and Google that largely determine what applications users can choose to run.

To be sure, the line between infrastructure and application can be blurry. For example, text messaging via SMS is offered as a bundled service by providers of mobile phone services like AT&T and Verizon. These services are usually thought of as infrastructural—while users of iPhones experience iMessage as an application that supplants SMS for inter-iOS text exchanges with a fall back to SMS for participants who don't use iOS.

Perhaps the distinction lies as much in the dominance of a service as it does in its position within a layered stack. Informally surveying students in courses on digital governance, I've found increasing appetite for content moderation by Facebook of users' news feeds and within Facebook groups—say to remove blatant election disinformation such as asserting the polls will be available on the wrong day, to depress turnout—while largely refusing to countenance moderation by telecommunications companies if the same disinformation were sent by SMS. Facebook Messenger remains a tossup....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Zittrain, Jonathan, "The Inexorable Push For Infrastructure Moderation." JournalPosts, September 24, 2021.

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