“IAPP Content Moderation in 2019” Conference Recap

In May, the IAPP held a conference in DC called “Content Moderation in 2019.” Though the conference was not officially part of the COMO conference series, it was a logical extension of the series. The IAPP’s event page. My photo album. Margaret Honda’s recap.

At the end of the day, I provided a summary of what I heard. I outlined five challenges:

1) Our community suffers from a nomenclature problem, especially the term “content moderation.” At the conference, the term “content moderation” was widely used and generally accepted, but there remains a deep split in the community about what that term means and whether it’s the best term to describe our work.

2) At the conference, speakers made a wide range of analogies for the function of content review, ranging from bivalves to Zambonis. The colorful analogies mask important ambiguities about how we self-define our roles.

3) Our community has some self-identity challenges. We often question the value of our work and why anyone would want to do the work we do. Furthermore, the work never ends, and no one makes 100% perfect decisions. Yet we are criticized for even minor mistakes. Still, we do important work, as smartly as we can, and we should be proud of that.

4) Internet utopianism is over. For 20+ years, many regulators approached Internet regulation carefully. Now, regulators think all Internet problems will magically be solved if Internet companies just “nerd harder.” We need to educate the regulators otherwise. To do so, we must publicly share information about what we’re doing and the many reasons it can’t be done perfectly.

5) Our community lacks sufficient infrastructure. We need a professional organization that will facilitate:

  • Networking. You are not alone!
  • Hiring. You deserve a raise!
  • Sharing best practices/tips
  • Standardizing the work we do and how we do it.

Fortunately, this is not an abstract wish. Stay tuned!

The remainder of this post provides links to materials from the prior four COMO conferences

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Content Moderation and Removal at Scale, Santa Clara University, February 2018

Event page. My roundup post. My photo album.


Welcome and Introduction (including Sen. Ron Wyden’s opening remarks)

Legal Overview (presentations by Eric Goldman and Daphne Keller)

Overview of Each Company’s Operations (presentations from Automattic, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Medium, Pinterest, Reddit, Wikipedia, and Yelp). If you only have time to watch one video, this is the one.

The History and Future of Content Moderation (panel featuring Nicole Wong, Charlotte Willner, and Dave Willner; moderated by Kate Klonick)

Session A: Employee/Contractor Hiring, Training and Mental Well-being (panelists from Automattic, Medium, and Pinterest)

Session B: Humans vs. Machines (panelists from Facebook, Wikimedia, and Yelp)

Session C: In-sourcing to Employees vs. Outsourcing to the Community or Vendors (panelists from Nextdoor, Pinterest, Reddit, Wikimedia, and Yelp)

Session D: Transparency and Appeals (panelists from Automattic, Medium, and Patreon)

Speaker Slides

Eric Goldman, US law overview

Daphne Keller, foreign law overview

Adelin Cai, Pinterest

Aaron Schur, Yelp

Techdirt Essays

Eric Goldman, It’s Time to Talk About Internet Companies’ Content Moderation Operations

Kate Klonick, Why The History Of Content Moderation Matters

Kevin Bankston & Liz Woolery, We Need To Shine A Light On Private Online Censorship

Alex Feerst, Implementing Transparency About Content Moderation

Jacob Rogers, International Inconsistencies In Copyright: Why It’s Hard To Know What’s Really Available To The Public

Adelin Cai, Putting Pinners First: How Pinterest Is Building Partnerships For Compassionate Content Moderation

Tarleton Gillespie, Moderation Is The Commodity

Paul Sieminski & Holly Hogan, Why (Allegedly) Defamatory Content On WordPress.com Doesn’t Come Down Without A Court Order

Sarah T. Roberts, Commercial Content Moderation & Worker Wellness: Challenges & Opportunities

Colin Sullivan, Trust Building As A Platform For Creative Businesses


COMO at Scale, Washington DC, May 2018

Event page. My roundup post.


Opening Remarks

Foundations: The Legal and Public Policy Framework for Content (Eric Goldman and Tiffany Li)

Under the Hood: UGC Moderation (Part 1) (Match – Tripadvisor – Twitter – Twitch – Vimeo)

Under the Hood: UGC Moderation (Part 2) (Github – Google – Wikimedia – Facebook)

You Make the Call: Audience Interactive (Emma Llanso and Mike Masnick)

Content Moderation and Law Enforcement

What Machines Are, and Aren’t, Good At


Concluding Remarks


My slides on the U.S. law of content moderation

Slides from GitHubTripAdvisorTwitchTwitter, and Vimeo


Conference organizer’s Flickr album

My photo album


COMO III: Content Moderation and the Future of Online Speech, St. Johns University (Manhattan), October 2018

Event page. My photo albumVideos.


COMO Brussels, European Parliament, February 2019

Event page. VideosProfessional photos from the event. My (vastly inferior) photo album.

Recap of the event by organizer Aleksandra Kuczerawy. My introductory remarks. Besedo’s recap.