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How and Why Internet Companies Moderate Speech Online

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube routinely remove posts deemed to violate standards on violence, sexual content, privacy, harassment, impersonation, self-harm and other concerns. Most of those actions happen automatically, through decisions made by artificial intelligence. (That’s led to complaints of over-enforcement, or the removal of content that may not have violated rules.) Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google partner with third-party fact-checkers to vet posts and news items that may be suspect, while Twitter labels some posts that contain misleading or disputed claims in certain categories, like Covid-19 or elections. Google recently pledged to ban advertisements that contradict the established science on climate change. More rarely, the platforms ban users, such as radio provocateur Alex Jones, removed from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Apple for engaging in hateful speech. Then-President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter Inc. accounts were frozen following the Jan. 6 riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol. 

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