Knight Foundation Grant To Copia To Research Content Moderation, Governance, Rules & Norms For Internet Infrastructure

from the excited-to-dig-in dept

So many of the discussions around content moderation have focused on the so-called "edge-providers" (the companies that are more user-facing). We all know the stories about content moderation dealing with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, etc. But for a while now we've been concerned about how the debate will play out regarding content moderation at the infrastructure layers -- that is the behind-the-scenes providers that people don't always even know exist. This includes hosting companies, DNS providers, domain registrars, CDNs, broadband providers and many, many more.

So we're (in the form of our Copia Institute think tank) are excited to be a part of a new grant to research this issue, with a specific focus on how these infrastructure content moderation issues may impact competition, privacy, and liability. We're planning to do some (virtual, for the time being!) gatherings, and putting together some research about these issues as well.

This is the first time we've worked with the Knight Foundation, and we're excited that they were willing to step up and support such important work.

Filed Under: content moderation, governance, grant, infrastructure, internet infrastructure, platforms, protocols, research
Companies: copia institute, knight foundation


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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 29 Jun 2020 @ 4:18pm

    It's an interesting topic.

    I think ISPs should be treated as common carriers and required to carry all speech. If there were competition among ISPs, I might change my view on that.

    DNS and hosting seem to have plenty of competition; I'm all right with DNS providers deciding what domain names they're willing to accept and hosting providers deciding what sites they're willing to host.

    CDNs are something of an interesting question; on the one hand, there's a relatively small number of them capable of handling a high-traffic site, but on the other, I'm hard-pressed to say they should be obligated to accept customers they don't want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Jun 2020 @ 4:42pm

      Re:

      The problem with DNS deciding what domain names they carry is that not that many people know either what DNS really means or how or why they should change the setting on their own computers.

      If, say a Comcast customer, is directed to their DNS servers and Comcast decides not to include say Techdirt, then they will get a 'host not found' result instead of the web page. Depending upon how picayune a particular DNS host is, they could keep people from a lot of legitimate content, or they could decide to hate say YouTube, or Amazon and not let people through to them, or decide that the current power base in Washington isn't to their liking and block all .gov sites.

      DNS servers, all of them, should carry everything, not just what they want. Or we educate the general public on why they should use (or for that matter not use) certain servers, and then how to change their settings. Good luck with that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 29 Jun 2020 @ 4:50pm

        Re: Re:

        You're absolutely right. I was thinking of domain registrars, not DNS providers themselves.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2020 @ 5:41pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Resolvers or outfits providing authoritative servers (which are frequently a service of registrars)? (I could imagine "moderation" issues with both.)

          On the good side, you can hang all the recursive DNS (resolver) providers and be your own. You can run BIND or whatever and query the zones yourself. Everyone's computer keeps a local resolver cache anyway, so why not go all the way?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2020 @ 5:17pm

        Re: Re:

        If, say a Comcast customer, is directed to their DNS servers and Comcast decides not to include say Techdirt, then they will get a 'host not found' result instead of the web page.

        This NXDOMAIN error needs to be signed when using DNSSEC. Therefore, an unsigned NXDOMAIN with no valid DNSSEC-opt-out record is automatically suspicious, and software ought to check with other servers (preferably in other countries, via encrypted links) before accepting it.

        SERVFAIL, a more generic error code, might also be reported by a server that blocks a domain.

        DNS servers, all of them, should carry everything, not just what they want.

        Certain data is illegal to possess or distribute. Therefore, that's not theoretically possible. I could, for example, use a series of DNS text records to distribute a book, once sentence at a time.

        But, it should not be legal for a court to force a DNS operator to censor responses just because they refer to the IP address of a server that's distributing something "bad". That's just lazy. We don't remove criminals from phonebooks.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2020 @ 5:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          They also like their redirects, in which case you never get a proper NXDOMAIN or SERVFAIL.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2020 @ 2:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          DNS servers, all of them, should carry everything, not just what they want.

          None of them do, as other than block lists, they only cache a successful lookup for a limited time. Changes to IP addresses for a site are not promulgated other than by the lookups to the an authoritative server for the domain.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 29 Jun 2020 @ 4:19pm

    Congratulations!

    I have loved the Knight Foundation since Wilton Knight first brought Michael into the fold.

    Best wishes / best of luck / stay safe.

    Ehud
    P.S. go KITT!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2020 @ 5:28pm

    Suggestion

    Maybe you can invite EFF and Fight for the Future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2020 @ 6:16pm

    Does Techdirt publish "Terms of Service" like others do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sparkydoc (profile), 30 Jun 2020 @ 9:15am

    Content moderation

    There has been talk in the past of the psychological toll taken on the people tasked with reviewing content. Would this be included in the study?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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