A Middle Ground for Moderating Social Media

Social media companies have been wrestling with content moderation for several years. Jaron Lanier recently suggested an alternative to a laissez-faire approach and government regulation. Here’s how he describes it:

…a platform would require users to form groups through free association, and then to post only through those groups, with the group’s imprimatur.

…It would be like starting up a zine, a band, or a partnership. You’d find some people with whom you feel compatible, people whom you trust, and then you’d work together to create a brand—a name for your group to be applied to a common feed of posts. Only groups like this would be able to post, not individuals, though individuals would still identify themselves, just like they would when playing in a band or writing in a magazine. Individuals could join multiple groups and groups would self-govern;…

…Members would share both good and bad consequences with one another, just like a group shares the benefits and responsibilities of a loan in microlending.

…Groups, as they appear on existing platforms, can be of any size. Some number in the millions. The sort of groups I have in mind would be much smaller as a rule. The point is that the people in the groups know one another well enough to take on the pursuit of trust and quality, and to rid their groups of bots.

…each group will be self-governing. Some will have a process in place for reviewing items before they are posted. Others will let members post as they see fit. Some groups will have strict membership requirements. Others might have looser standards. It will be a repeat of the old story of people building societal institutions and dealing with unavoidable trade-offs, but people will be doing this on their own terms.

I’ll write some thoughts later. What do you guys think?

2 thoughts on “A Middle Ground for Moderating Social Media

  1. By all (reasonable) means, I think someone should launch it and see if it sticks. I’d sign up, although I already don’t think — on a strictly hypothetical basis — I’d like it nearly as much as the social media platforms I already use on a daily basis. Of course, there were many social media platforms I liked before Twitter, IG, FB, LI and others I favor came along, so maybe this new thing would be the next thing. One reason FB survives is its correction of bad practices on MySpace. So the new thing could thrive by fixing whatever bad stuff it perceives in FB.

    I’d be interested to know whether there’d be a means for differentiating bad bots from good bots, or if there’d simply be an all-inclusive ban on bots.

    The varying levels of moderation remind me of Usenet, which had that in place as well. It was interesting because (for example) alt.culture.hawaii was a free-for-all while soc.culture.hawaii was moderated, and while the content on soc.culture.hawaii was far less annoying, it was also quite a bit less fun.

    I find personal controls on Twitter pretty darn satisfactory. I pretty much have the stream I want, as I always have from the beginning. The newer controls — such as muting certain phrases — are fine but so far I haven’t had occasion to use them. Blocking plus lists plus viewing my stream in columns is good enough for me.

  2. I’m thinking of Lanier’s proposal in relation to the social and political impact it would have, not really whether you or I would personally have a more favorable experience.

    On balance I think the impact is more negative than positive–or at least there are enough negatives that warrant some changes.

    I’d be interested to know whether there’d be a means for differentiating bad bots from good bots, or if there’d simply be an all-inclusive ban on bots.

    Based on my understanding, each group would decide this for themselves–including not banning any bots.

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