Setting the Table for Discussion on How Tech Platforms Address Extremism

Media and technology firms are grappling to discover and refine the rules, tools, and standards that address substantive concerns about extreme content while allowing free expression to thrive. This week, Communities Overcoming Extremism: the After Charlottesville Project (COE) will bring together private sector leaders to talk about the questions and discoveries arising in different online communities.

In the wake of the 2017 tragedy in Charlottesville, COE formed when Anti-Defamation League, Ford Foundation, Soros Fund Charitable Foundation, Fetzer Institute, and others came together in partnership to surface solutions to the underlying factors. Two of the founding members—former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and Charles Koch Institute Director of Free Expression Sarah Ruger—detailed the motivation behind COE in a commentary in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

These groups do not agree on everything. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Given the high stakes of the challenges surrounding hate and heightened polarization, we can’t afford to devolve into political debates or respond reactively with censorship. It takes a diversity of perspectives — individuals willing to challenge each other as well as their own assumptions — to find innovative solutions.

We’ve seen this at previous gatherings. During last year’s event in St. Louis, a mayor of a major Midwest city shared how he’d tempered tensions at a white nationalist rally: His city simply supplied water bottles.

The rally took place on a hot summer Saturday, when public restrooms were closed. Providing an easy source of hydration — but no restrooms — ensured people could only congregate so long. The crowds quickly thinned.

This week’s event invites similar knowledge sharing.

The summit includes panel discussions exploring the unintended consequences of content moderation; the challenges of congressional intervention in technology; and building coalitions, alliances and partnerships dedicated to overcoming extremism. Speakers include Oren Segal from the Anti-Defamation League, Alex Feerst from Medium, and Mary McCord from the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, as well as representatives from Pinterest, Patreon, Airbnb, Lyft, New America, Facebook, Discord, and Storyful.

Learn more about the July 17 summit here.

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