Facebook’s Willner ’06 and Other ‘Deciders’ Carve Future of Free Speech (New Republic)

Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic sheds light on the “Deciders,” as he calls them — the tech leaders of Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — who are crafting company policies for hate speech and censorship on the Internet.

The article profiles Dave Willner ’06, who leads Facebook’s six-person content policy team at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters. Hundreds more staff, stationed in Austin, Denver and India, review the more than two million complaints that come in weekly about offensive material — nudity, porn, violence and hate speech.

“At the time Willner joined Facebook’s content policy team, the company had no rules on the books for what speech violated its terms of service. So Willner decided to write them himself. He chose as his model university anti-harassment codes, since he himself had just graduated from college,” Rosen writes. Eventually, this policy evolved to Facebook’s current free-speech decision to ban attacks on groups, but not on institutions — empowering “the company to resist growing calls for the wholesale deletion of speech that foreign governments and their citizens consider blasphemous.”

Comments

  1. Christopher Hanks '68 says:

    Good for Dave Willner and Rosen’s article is terrific. The fact that Dave Willner (and his fellow “deciders”) recognized the importance of defeating “the heckler’s veto” speaks well of the education Mr. Willner got at Bowdoin – especially worth keeping in mind at the moment given the ongoing NAS “What Does Bowdoin Teach” flap.

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