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“Assuming Good Faith Online” Essay Published

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my essay, “Assuming Good Faith Online,” in the Journal of Online Trust and Safety. The published version.

This essay has had a more convoluted publication history than most. I initially drafted it in early 2022 as part of an essay package that had been pre-placed at Journal A. For reasons that remain unclear to me, Journal A changed its mind about the package. The organizers then approached Journal B about taking the package or pieces of it. That didn’t go anywhere, at least for me. After a few more months of delay, the organizers eventually told me I was free to pursue any publication opportunity I chose. Fortunately, the piece found an excellent home with the Journal of Online Trust & Safety, a relatively recently launched journal that has been a very welcome addition to the conversation.

The essay abstract:

Every Internet service enabling user-generated content faces a dilemma of balancing good-faith and bad-faith activity. Without that balance, the service loses one of the internet’s signature features—users’ ability to engage with and learn from each other in pro-social and self-actualizing ways—and instead drives towards one of two suboptimal outcomes. Either it devolves into a cesspool of bad-faith activity or becomes a restrictive locked-down environment with limited expressive options for any user, even well-intentioned ones.

Striking this balance is one of the hardest challenges that internet services must navigate, and yet the U.S. regulatory policy currently lets services prioritize the best interests of their audiences rather than regulators’ paranoia of bad faith actors. However, that regulatory deference is in constant jeopardy. Should it change, it will hurt the Internet—and all of us.

This essay distills some of my efforts as a Knight Visiting Scholar from 2021, which resulted in the “Lessons from the First Internet Ages” project. That project produced some awesome highlights, and I encourage you to revisit it.

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