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Communications of the ACM

Law and technology

Content Moderation Modulation

user and strident speakers, illustration

Credit: GoodStudio

Debates about speech on social networks may be heated, but the governance of these platforms is more like an iceberg. We see, and often argue over, decisions to take down problematic speech or to leave it up. But these final decisions are only the visible tip of vast and mostly submerged systems of technological governance.

The urge to do something is an understandable human reaction, and so is reaching for familiar mechanisms to solve new problems. But current regulatory proposals to change how social network platforms moderate content are not a solution for today's problems of online speech any more than deck chairs were a solution for the Titanic. To do better, the conversation around online speech must do the careful, thoughtful work of exploring below the surface.


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