There’s going to come a day when there will be a need to police the speech of legal bloggers. Not across the Internet in entirety, but by a company or organization hosting or syndicating legal blogs. Could be LexBlog.
Censorship of legal bloggers has not been a big topic of concern among the legal blogosphere. Sadly, most legal bloggers are afraid to offend anyone, though we have seen a few get bounced off Twitter for a bit, I suspect out of machines doing automatic takedowns.
With legal commentary, most of which will come from blogs, being so critical to the advancement of the law, “in person” moderation will be much preferable to machines.
The highly successful membership platform, Patreon, that enables publishers to charge subscriptions and bring in as much as six or seven figures a month, provides a nice example of human censorship.
The New York Times’ Nellie Bowles reporting on hate speech censorship by Patreon, details their approach.
Patreon takes a highly personal approach to policing speech. While Google and Facebook use algorithms as a first line of defense for questionable content, Patreon has human moderators. They give warnings and reach out to talk to offenders, presenting options for “education” and “reform.” Some activists hope this will become a model for a better and kinder internet.
There are no automated takedowns,” [founder Jack] Conte said. “As a creator myself dealing with these big tech platforms and getting an automated takedown notice, there’s no appeals process. You can’t talk to a human. And I never want to do that.”
Jaqueline Hart, Patreon’s head of trust and safety, said her team watches for and will investigate complaints about any content posted on Patreon and on other sites like YouTube and Facebook that violates what it defines as hate speech. That includes “serious attacks, or even negative generalizations, of people based on their race [and] sexual orientation,” she has said.
If someone has breached Patreon’s policy, the company contacts the offender with a specific plan, which usually involves asking for the content to be removed and for a public apology.
As I understand the law, there is no right to free speech for publishers on third party owned platforms. The only right is that the platform owner is within its right under the First Amendment to decide who and what gets published.
Just as “offensive” matters and “speech” are the subject of adjudication in our courts and the subject of discussion in legal reporting and commentary, platforms powering publishers in the law will need to take a liberal approach to what is allowed – and hopefully do so by hand.
Platforms such as Twitter or Facebook represent a fire hose of constant worldwide content. Machine policing is a necessity.
Legal blogs represent no where near the volume. Some blogs may not make it onto an aggregation or hosting platform such as LexBlog. For those that do, a personal approach, aided by machines, to policing seems very doable.