Summary of The Secret Rules of the Internet

The Murky History of Moderation, and How It’s Shaping the Future of Free Speech

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The Secret Rules of the Internet summary
Content moderation protects us from the very worst of the internet, but does it unfairly limit free speech?


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Many people believe content moderation involves law enforcement agents using automated systems to protect users from the worst of the Internet, but the truth resembles something closer to an offshore sweatshop. Journalists Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly dispel myths about Internet content moderation. It’s not highly automated, law enforcement isn’t involved and many workers lack training. Users play an invaluable role in reporting offensive content and in determining the norms for a site. getAbstract recommends this article to social media users and anyone with an interest in freedom of speech.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How content moderation works,
  • Why users are important, and
  • How technology is improving content moderation.


Since social media began, dark, scary corners of the Internet have thrived. Small teams reviewed and removed objectionable posts users reported, but most companies were secretive about their policies. Without transparency, there was no public or legal pressure to change. Unlike other media, platforms weren’t legally responsible for their users’ content. Sites made their own rules in-house about what was acceptable, which evolved over time in response to current events and political movements. As moderators made increasingly complex decisions about newsworthiness and political relevance, it became apparent they were making decisions about free speech.

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About the Authors

Catherine Buni is a writer and editor for the The New York Times and The Atlantic. Soraya Chemaly is a media critic and writer for Salon, the Guardian, and Huffington Post.

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