On the biggest internet platforms, content moderation is bad and getting worse. It’s difficult to get it right, and at the scale of millions or billions of users, it may be impossible. It’s hard enough for humans to sift between spam, illegal content, and offensive but legal speech. Bots and AI have also failed to rise to the job.
So, it’s inevitable that services make mistakes—removing users’ speech that does not violate their policies, or terminating users’ accounts with no explanation or opportunity to appeal. And inconsistent moderation often falls hardest on oppressed groups.
The dominance of a handful of online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter increases the impact of their content moderation decisions and mistakes on internet users’ ability to speak, organize, and participate online. Bad content moderation is a real problem that harms internet users.
There’s no perfect solution to this issue. But U.S. lawmakers seem enamored with trying to force platforms to follow a government-mandated editorial line: host this type of speech, take down this other type of speech. In Congressional hearing after hearing, lawmakers have hammered executives of the largest companies over what content stayed up, and what went down. The hearings ignored smaller platforms and services that could be harmed or destroyed by many of the new proposed internet regulations.
Lawmakers also largely ignored worthwhile efforts to address the outsized influence of the largest online services—like legislation supporting privacy, competition, and interoperability. Instead, in 2021, many lawmakers decided that they themselves would be the best content moderators. So EFF fought off, and is continuing to fight off, repeated government attempts to undermine free expression online.