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Digital Platforms in the Age of Content Moderation

Day One: The Past, or The Era of Rights

The era of rights, from roughly 1995-2010, emphasized freedom of speech and platforms’ abstention from moderating users’ content. In this era John Perry Barlow could articulate a vision of the internet free from government repression, and could write that “[w]e are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.” Section 230, enacted in the same year, was similarly intended to encourage the unregulated development of free speech on the internet: by saying that online services weren’t liable for third party content, it removed the incentive for service providers to over-regulate online speech. This allowed for the rise of platforms, but the architecture of these platforms ran counter to Barlow’s vision.