Most people would agree that every online platform needs some way to moderate user-generated content. It seems reasonable, for example, that YouTube would remove videos containing child pornography or that Twitter would ban an official Al Qaeda account or that Facebook would ban a user who issues direct threats to the physical safety of others. But when you remove explicitly violent and illegal content from the equation, the line between commonsense moderation and censorship grows hazy. To delete a violent video is one thing; to censor an unpopular opinion (or any opinion) is quite another.
I ran into this problem last month when YouTube deleted my conversation with Mark Goldblatt and John McWhorter. (We subsequently uploaded it directly to Substack—you can watch it here.) In the wake of this egregious instance of censorship, my team and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how we handle our own responsibilities as stewards of our own community of users. Creating a space where conversation and debate can happen relatively freely is a tricky thing, and there’s no one I know of who has better ideas about how to do it than my creative director, Nikita Petrov. It’s clear to us that Substack offers one of the best venues for free expression currently available online. But there are ways they could make the platform even more responsive to its users. In this bonus episode of TGS, Nikita offers his suggestions as to how Substack can continue to serve as an invaluable platform for free expression while putting even more power in its users hands.
This is a bonus episode of The Glenn Show. To get early access to episodes, as well as an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.
0:00 Why YouTube censored a TGS episode
6:25 How can YouTube justify censoring matters of opinion?
15:15 Why there’s no such thing as free speech
26:00 Nikita’s notes on Substack Notes
39:53 Democratizing content moderation
46:11 Creating better, community-centered comments sections
Recorded May 4, 2023
Links and Readings
Nikita’s Substack, Psychopolitica
The censored TGS episode, “I Feel, Therefore I Am”
Glenn’s paper, “Self-Censorship in Public Discourse: A Theory of ‘Political Correctness’ and Related Phenomena”
Matt Taibbi’s Substack, Racket News
Glenn’s most recent conversation with Amy Wax