Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Content Moderation’s Original ‘Decider’

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Nicole Wong
Thursday, December 9, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

We talk a lot about how content moderation involves a lot of hard decisions and trade-offs—but at the end of the day, someone has to make a decision about what stays on a platform and what comes down. This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with “The Decider”—Nicole Wong, who earned that tongue-in-cheek nickname during her time at Google in the 2000s. As the company’s deputy general counsel, Nicole was in charge of decisionmaking over what content Google should remove or keep up in response to complaints from users and governments alike. Since then, she moved on to roles as Twitter’s legal director of products and the deputy chief technology officer of the United States under the Obama administration. In that time, the role of social media platforms in shaping society has grown enormously, but how much have content moderation debates really changed? Quinta and Evelyn spoke with Nicole about her time as the Decider, what’s new and what’s stayed the same since the early days of content moderation, and how her thinking about the danger and promise of the internet has changed over the years.

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.
Nicole Wong is the former Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration, focused on internet, privacy, and innovation policy. Prior to her time in government, Nicole was Google’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, and Twitter’s Legal Director for Products.

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