Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Is Block Party the Future of Content Moderation?

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Tracy Chou
Thursday, February 3, 2022, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

We talk a lot on this show about the responsibility of major tech platforms when it comes to content moderation. But what about problems the platforms can’t—or won’t—fix? Tracy Chou’s solution involves going around platforms entirely and creating tools that give power back to users to control their own experience. She’s the engineer behind Block Party, an app that allows Twitter users to protect themselves against online harassment and abuse. It’s a fine-tuned solution to a problem that a lot of Twitter users struggle with, especially women and particularly women of color. 

This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Tracy about her work developing Block Party and how the persistent lack of diversity in Silicon Valley contributes to an environment where users have little protection against harassment. They also talked about what it’s like working with the platforms that Block Party and other apps like it are seeking to improve. And they discussed what content moderation problems these kinds of user-driven tools might help solve–and which they won’t.

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Tracy Chou is the founder and CEO of Block Party. She is an entrepreneur and software engineer, known for her work advocating for diversity and inclusion in tech.

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