Law in the Internet Society

Does Censorship with Artificial Intelligence kill our internet communities?

-- By TorahikoMasutani - 09 Dec 2021

1. Censorship both by Governments and private companies in the internet community

In the past, censorship in the internet community was mainly conducted by governments authorities. For instance, China, one of the biggest tech countries in the world, is famous for its “Great Firewall," which is the world's most sophisticated internet censorship apparatus. Some organizations and media reported that the Chinese government blocks expression containing criticism of individuals, policies, or events that are considered integral to the one-party system in the Chinese internet community and a wide range of websites, such as New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that might provide information critical of the Chinese government and other international social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp? , Twitter, Instagram and YouTube? , are entirely blocked.(1) United Nations says, "This repression of critical speech violates article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and access to information “through any media and regardless of frontiers”, as well as article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”(2) Thus, it can be said that “Enlisting the private sector in state abuses” was the central issue of censorship in internet communities.

What is the distinction between censorship and editing? Is every newspaper's "letters to the editor" censored? Without some precision here the argument loses most of its credibility.

However, these days, many private companies also conduct censorship in the community that they provide to the public. For instance, Facebook removes millions of violating posts and accounts every day on the Facebook app and Instagram. Most of those actions are conducted automatically, with artificial intelligence technology.(3) Intel announced that it released “Bleep”, an artificial intelligence program that censors hate speech in real-time voice chat during gameplay.(4) Almost all of us, especially those who live in countries with highly developed internet infrastructure, heavily rely on services provided by such tech giants. We use Google search engine and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other kinds of social media every day to receive information from others and to transmit our information. It is pretty difficult for (most of) us to live without using such services. Thus, censorship conducted by such private companies also does serious harm to our rights, and it might be much more fatal for us to deal with such censorship compared to that by government authorities.

2. Censorship with Artificial Intelligence by private companies

Recently, many private companies are introducing artificial intelligence technologies to conduct censorship in the community managed by them. For instance, Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, insists that “A central focus of Facebook’s AI efforts is deploying cutting-edge machine learning technology to protect people from harmful content…Our goal is to spot hate speech, misinformation, and other forms of policy-violating content quickly and accurately, for every form of content, and for every language and community around the world.”(5) It is true that such kind of censorship is helpful for private companies as “forum providers.” However, is it good for the internet communities and us as “forum participants” to introduce censorship by artificial intelligence? I do not believe so.

It is true that more and more people raised concerns about witnessing and experiencing toxicity of hate speech, sexual expression, or other kinds of offensive expression in accordance with the expansion of social media and it is essential to deal with such concerns. This kind of offensive expression sometimes leads to severe problems like “Cyber-bullying.”(6) However, if forum providers are allowed to decide “what can be expressed in the platform and what can be not,” the expression in the forum becomes totally different from “free and liberal expression.” Is there any free and liberal expression in the internet community where its users can access only a highly censored, monitored and manipulated version of the expressions of each other? I think it is not. Such a platform censored by providers may easily lead to the forum controlled by the selfish-intention of providers and distort discussion among people in the internet society. This issue becomes much severe as artificial intelligence enables providers to censor the expressions in the forum on a larger scale than ever before.

Once again, moderated conversation is hardly censorship, or the absence of "free and liberal" thought, unless classrooms are to be regarded as unfree and illiberal. More precision is necessary.

So far as "AI" (which is not artificial intelligence) is concerned, what difference does it make what tools the editor uses? If I use a pattern-marching search or concordance tool in the course of editing this wiki, does that change anything significant, and if so, why?

3. Conclusion - Community without Censorship by providers / with self-regulation by participants

Thus, I think censorship in internet forums shall be denied if such censorship is conducted under the self-imposed control of forum providers. I believe that hate speech or other harmful expressions in the internet forum shall be excluded not by technologies such as artificial intelligence but basically through education to all forum participants. Forum providers shall conduct only the minimum essential censorship to prevent harm such as hate speech and shall not impose broad restrictions on expressions in the forum by using artificial intelligence.


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(1) Freedom House, “Freedom on the net 2021”, 2021, Ryan Fedasiuk, “Buying Silence: The Price of Internet Censorship in China," The Jamestown Foundation, January 12, 2021, Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong And Daisuke Wakabayashi, “Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China”, New York Times,

(2) Wafa Ben-Hassine, “Government Policy for the Internet Must Be Rights-Based and User-Centred”,

(3) Meta Platforms, Inc., “Community Standards Enforcement Report Q3 2021 report”, 2021, Meta Platforms, Inc., “AI advances to better detect hate speech”, May 12, 2020, Khari Johnson, “Facebook is using more AI to detect hate speech”, May 12, 2020,

(4) Ana Diaz, “Intel responds to hate speech tool getting roasted by the internet”, April 9, 2021,

(5) Sam Shead, “Facebook claims A.I. now detects 94.7% of the hate speech that gets removed from its platform”, November 19, 2020,

(6) Cyberbullying Research Center, “TWEEN CYBERBULLYING IN 2020”, 2021,

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r2 - 02 Jan 2022 - 12:05:24 - EbenMoglen
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