Content moderation strategy

Anyone can comment on this blog. We’d love to see more comments. Challenging our ideas is fine. Telling us that you like our work is encouraging.

If you are in the know, then you assume we have a comment moderation policy, because everyone needs one. If you have never run a website then you might think it is possible to simply have an open form that anyone could type into and get immediately published on the platform.

Comments come in every day, but most of them never get posted. We are not against free speech or silencing an opposition. Most of the comments, if you can even call them comments, are spam. Sometimes spammers try to get posted by saying that they love the site, and sometimes the text seems like AI-generated pornography. The words are not written by humans or at least not humans who have actually read our content.

I don’t think it’s smart to be 100% transparent about our “algorithm” for filtering out this spam. That would make it easier to for bad actors to accomplish what they want to accomplish.

To our human readers, please comment. Your comment will get posted, although sometimes it might take a minute or even hours to get through. We are not censoring ideas, yet we need a moderation policy or else this place would not be fun. People would not want to wade through spam.

Elon Musk buying Twitter is the big news this week. He wants to enhance free speech on the site and, according to him, make it more open and fun. Some fans are hoping that he will make the content moderation and ban policy more transparent. Maybe that’s possible. Maybe he can improve the site.

My point is that if you have not been on the admin side of an internet forum then you might not realize the challenge it presents. There are trade offs involved. I believe that there can be improvements to the current system at Twitter. However, if you want to be taken seriously be tech folk then ask for a system that is possible. A substantially better experience might be incompatible with the site being free to users.

In our case, we could improve our system at EWED. Real people who comment will not like the lag, and fixing that is a technical problem. More time and money could solve it, but this site makes no money.

The economics insight is that you get what you pay for. Studio executives make the movies they believe you will pay for. We get the politicians we bother to vote for. Journalists report what they get paid to write.

Twitter could create a paid user tier. Paid users would be entitled to speak to a human on staff at Twitter in the event that they get censored and have the option of an appeals process.

I am used to getting a lot of services for free online. New companies roll out a huge free initial offering to harvest users and data. I have spent most of my adult life in that roll out phase. Eventually the party stops and investors want to see a revenue stream. Maybe I should start paying for the internet services I value. Maybe part of the reason the conversation is so rancorous is that we are transitioning away from everything being free. Inventing social media is sort of like humans discovering fire and cocaine at the same time! We are still figuring out how to use these tools effectively and safely.

I think a bad scenario happens if we cannot transition over to a patronage model. Remaining trapped in a free stuff mentality would be worse in the long run. I hope Napster didn’t ruin me. In an ideal world, I would be willing to pay for social media and also never spend more than 2 hours a day scrolling on any open platform. We should try for that. We should supplement our online reading with content that has made it past a publisher. For now, one way to get around Twitter censorship is to buy and read books.

6 thoughts on “Content moderation strategy

  1. pixelatedpersona April 30, 2022 / 3:53 pm

    In addition to the paid tier mentioned in the post, Twitter could: sell the privilege of blocking someone; sell the privilege of deleting a tweet; sell the privilege of editing a tweet. (These could be micropayments for each time used.) (and of course edit histories have to be free and open)
    Also: sell the privilege of saving a tweet to view later, even if the tweeter deletes it; sell the privilege of viewing the users who save your tweets in case they are deleted; sell the privilege of knowing whether a user has the ability to know you saved a tweet of theirs; sell the privilege of completely deleting a tweet regardless of whether it was saved. (Of course tweet screenshots can be saved outside of twitter; this would just be a convenience.)
    More: sell the privilege of an ad-free twitter experience; sell the privilege of programming your own feed algorithm; sell the privilege of keeping your personal feed algorithm secret; sell the privilege of viewing your follower’s personal feed algorithms; sell the privilege of a blue check, charging at least enough to pay for the work of verifying the person; hold blue check persons to a higher standard and fine them if they fall back. And of course, bundle and price these privileges using microeconomic theory, to maximize revenue. Even with all this revenue, it would still be free to use most of the time for most users.


    • Joy April 30, 2022 / 8:53 pm

      Good ideas. I’d like for people to be able to maintain an account for free along with a broad base of customers that pay a low fee where I see myself fitting.


  2. StickerShockTrooper May 2, 2022 / 11:18 am

    Paying money to block someone, delete or edit a tweet seem like very basic user functionality that would irk most users if they were forced to pay for it.

    Why not copy a page from an economic model that already works: free-to-pay and freemium games. All functionality is free. Pay for cosmetics (Fancy checkmarks? animated thumbnail pics?) Pay for “excess” use (more than X tweets a day).

    Free users increase network effects, which benefits everyone, including the “whales” who pay actual money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joy May 2, 2022 / 11:20 am

      Paying for checkmark is a very clean and tidy way to do it. Good point about network effects.

      Liked by 1 person

    • pixelatedpersona May 12, 2022 / 8:27 am

      Free blocking could be good for a certain amount of time, say a month. Permanent blocking costs a small amount. This would establish a norm of possible forgiveness, after a cool-off period.
      It could be micropayments. Twitter could give every user a micropayments account pre-loaded with a dollar amount that would last the typical user about a year. With a change in ownership/ management people should expect some irksome changes. I agree, having to pay for what was once free is very unpleasant. To keep people happy, user micropayment fees should only apply to new functionality.


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