According to Bloomberg news, Google’s former head of Trust and Safety has a few unorthodox ideas: Create a government agency to monitor social media companies as if they were polluters. Tax internet platforms that host user-generated content. Stop letting technology giants make content moderation decisions—and instead hand over moderation duties to independent auditors.
Those are some of the new proposals published on Wednesday by Trust Lab, a startup pitching itself as one such outside moderation shop for tech platforms. Trust Lab was co-founded by Tom Siegel, who spent 14 years at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, including a stint running the division that handles enforcing rules on content policies for its various properties.
Siegel’s Trust Lab is part of a new crop of companies and organizations trying to come up with automated solutions to online abuse. Others include Hive, Sentropy and Spectrum Labs. To borrow from tech parlance, think of their offerings as trust-and-safety-as-a-service. “If users have an opportunity to contribute content in any form, abuse will take place,” said Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, another former Google executive and an investor in Trust Lab. “The opportunity here is massive.”
Siegel left Google in early 2019. Since then, he’s watched his alma mater, Facebook Inc. and other platforms heave more money into moderation, and take a shellacking for how they’ve managed misinformation, hate speech and nefarious actors. “Everyone agrees,” said Siegel, “it’s a real mess.”
The current method for social platforms disclosing their moderation work—in which each company voluntarily reports different metrics for content removal, with scant details—is “meaningless,” according to Siegel, and in need of reform. He thinks outside firms should be licensed to run these disclosure reports and to perform platform cleanups. He also wants a federal oversight body to help set rules, envisioning a new government entity as a sort of “Internet Protection Agency,” modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency and the other U.S. organizations that police consumer safety and finance.
“This common sense approach is already implemented in almost every other sector of society where harm occurs,” Siegel wrote in Wednesday’s post.
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