As Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny of disinformation online, Jimmy Wales said that Wikipedia and Twitter face a more difficult challenge over the content moderation than the online encyclopedia launched in 2001.
But he said lawmakers should not do away with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives companies the right to moderate or protect much of the content posted by third parties and protects them from legal liability over that content.
'The truth is, a lot of people have bad ideas and i don't think that’s necessarily the responsibility of Facebook and Twitter, Wales told Yahoo FinanceYahoo Finance Live on Wednesday.If they get into the vantage point of when they promote bad ideas, when they're promoting disinformation, then I think they have a moral obligation to think about that.But we can't make Facebook legally responsible for everything that is creepy uncle typing on the internet.
Before a Senate hearing Wednesday, lawmakers continued a series of ongoing probes into what is law that would improve upon the moderation rights granted by Section 230 on internet platforms while holding up neutrality.The law has been attacked from the right and left, with many liberals saying it allows censorship and conservatives contending it lets websites host dangerous content without repercussions.
'Very, very different in our moderation practices'.
There is more criticism than Wikipedia over their moderation practices because they use a different moderation method from the website that Wales founded, he said.
We're very, very different in our moderation practices compared to anybody else, he explained.
Rather than follow the traditional model of the hiring procedure, which is to recruit staff members and artificial intelligence to make decisions about which content is blocked or not, Wikipedia is moderated by its community.
So our community makes all the rules, he said.Our community enforces the rules.
He further said the advertising-based business models of big tech social media platforms are problematic because they promote algorithms that amplify discord.
'' If your sweet grandmother posts a nice picture of a dog, it probably doesn't get much comment, Wales said.'But some racist jerk in your family posts something obnoxious, probably everyone jumps on to yell at them and then suddenly we have engagement, suddenly we've got time on the platform.
While Wales doesn't think such platforms would agree that their business models rely on the challenge of controversial content, he pointed out that today's algorithms don't necessarily optimize for accuracy.
I think if you have an advertising only business model, where you make money only when people click and stay on your website for a long time then it's very easy to fall into a trap of letting your algorithms optimize for that, with no genuine respect for the truth, he said.
To control misinformation and disinformation, rather than reforming section 230, Wales suggests strengthening financial transparency rules so that consumers know who's funding campaigns, including political ads.He also advocates for transparency in algorithm design, which he said could disrupt micro-targeted advertising and content that promotes radicalization.
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Alexis Keenan is a former reporter for Yahoo Finance and a Legal Lawyer.Follow Alexis Keenan on twitter @ alexiskweed.