The Lawfare Podcast


Content Moderation Comes for Parler and Gettr

Let’s say you’re a freedom-loving American fed up with Big Tech’s effort to censor your posts. Where can you take your business? One option is Parler—the social media platform that became notorious for its use by the Capitol rioters. Another is Gettr—a new site started by former Trump aide Jason Miller.

Unfortunately, both platforms have problems. They don’t work very well. They might leak your personal data. They’re full of spam. And they seem less than concerned about hosting some of the internet’s worst illegal content. Can it be that some content moderation is necessary after all?

Today, we’re bringing you another episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on the online information ecosystem. Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with David Thiel, the big data architect and chief technical officer of the Stanford Internet Observatory. With his colleagues at Stanford, David has put together reports on the inner workings of both Parler and Gettr. They talked about how these websites work (and don’t), the strange contours of what both platforms are and aren’t willing to moderate, and what we should expect from the odd world of “alt-tech.”

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The Broken Rube Goldberg Machine of Online Advertising

Today, we’re bringing you another episode of Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem.In a 2018 Senate hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to a question about how his company makes money with a line that quickly became famous: “Senator, we sell ads.” And indeed, when you open up your Facebook page—or most other pages on the internet—you’ll find advertisements of all sorts following you around. Sometimes they’re things you might really be interested in buying, even if you’ve never heard of them before—tailored to your interests with spooky accuracy. Other times, they’re redundant or just … weird. Like the aid for a pair of strange plaid pajamas with a onesie-style flap on the bottom that briefly took over the internet in December 2020.Shoshana Wodinsky, a staff reporter at Gizmodo, wrote a great piece explaining how exactly those onesie pajamas made their way to so many people’s screens. She’s one of very few reporters covering the business of online advertisements outside industry publications—so Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke to her this week about what it’s like reporting on ads. How exactly does ad technology work? Why is it that the ad ecosystem gets so little public attention, even as it undergirds the internet as we know it? And what’s the connection between online ads and content moderation?It’s the Lawfare Podcast, September 16: The Broken Rube Goldberg Machine of Online Advertising