Better Online Living Through Content Moderation (Reading Summary Six)

In her article titled Better Online Living Through Content Moderation, Melissa King argues that content control features such as block lists, privacy settings, and trigger warnings should become more prevalent to protect people from harassment or ideas that they find offensive. Regardless of the reason, King writes that no person should be forced to receive content that they do not want. There are critics against this kind of content control and King tries to answer them while explaining to the audience why one ought to support more content control on the Internet.

According to King, there are critics who paint those who are in favor of stricter content control as being too sensitive while scoffing at the idea of a person developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Internet harassment or an article sharing an opinion that the reader disagrees with or finds offensive. Regarding PTSD, King provides expert testimonial from a psychologist named Caleb Lack who believes one can develop PTSD from online bullying. Another argument that King charges critics with is the idea that one should not avoid what offends or irritates them; instead, one should confront what psychologically irritates them in an effort to develop a resistance to it. However, King believes this is a bad argument because a lack of controlled exposure to offensive content may lead to exacerbating a person’s PTSD. One other argument critics make against features like blocklists is that they come with a negative connotation that may damage the reputation of those who are stuck on them. For example, if an employer saw a potential employee’s name on the “misogynist blocklist”, then that might cost him the job (or cost him his job if he already has one) even though he may have been stuck on that list for merely expressing his belief that the gender wage gap is a myth. King believes this isn’t a good argument either because the architects of blocklists can exactly describe on their website the kinds of people who will be blocked. Finally, there is the argument that blockslists may infringe upon the freedom of expression of others, especially if they’re ratified by companies like Twitter or Facebook. In other words, let’s say a group of people are offended by X, and so they petition Facebook to have X blocked; if Facebook listens to and appeases the group, then no one is allowed to express X. King doesn’t buy this argument either because there is widespread online harassment in the form of bullying and threats of violence, some of it being so extreme that the victims of this harassment become afraid for their safety and lives, frightening them into silence.

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