CBPO

Tag: Time

The silent killers of loading time and how to fix them

November 17, 2019 No Comments

Imagine visiting a website that takes more than 10, no two seconds to load. We know that the mouse is going to hover to the top right corner because honestly, no one has the time to wait nowadays. 

A Forbes article mentioned that a mere one-second delay in page load time means a seven percent decline in sales, 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a seven percent loss in conversions. 

Your website may be a work of art with awesome features. It can have lightning speed chat responses but with slow loading time, none of that matters. 

Attention spans are growing smaller and patience is thinner than ever. Other than that, slow loading sites impact your SEO because it affects how Google sees your page. Speed is a ranking factor Google uses to measure your page. Sure, content may be king, but speed can change how your content performs in search. 

We’ll dig deep and find the silent killers of loading time – both common and uncommon causes.

1. Uncompressed images and bizarre image dimensions

The quality and size of an image affects its loading time. Having a high-resolution image on every page means your site will load slower.

How you can fix this

A couple of ways we found included installing plugins. The first one is with a jQuery Lazy Load plugin. This plugin allows the images that are only appearing to load “above the fold” or on a part a visitor is currently viewing. 

The second option is by using image optimizers such as Yahoo!’s Smush.it or use the WP Smush.it plugin which compacts images without altering their quality. With the WP plugin, it can be done automatically when you add graphics to your site.

2. Unnecessary plugins

If you have a WordPress site you’ll know that there are tons of plugins wandering around and sometimes you might feel the need to download every one because they’re “helpful” to your site. 

Before you know it, you’ll have plugins running your site and you might even have a plugin for your plugin.

Plugin overload can be a problem because the more plugins your site has, the more work it has to do when it loads. Also, not all plugins are as awesome as they claim to be. Beware of outdated plugins that can slow down your site instead of improving its performance.

What you can do to solve this problem is by evaluating your current plugins to figure out which ones you actually need. You might have multiple plugins that have the same function or have some that you’re no longer using. 

When you’re deleting plugins check to see if

– The plugin is relevant and updated

– Whether it has another similar plugin with same functions

– Whether you’re still using it the respective plugin

You can also check the performance of your plugins using the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) which shows you the impact of each plugin has on your WordPress site load time.

3. An excessive homepage

Your homepage is the face of your brand. So, we get it if you want it to look the best. However, when you try to impress new visitors with a bunch of widgets, content, and state-of-the-art imagery, it’s going to compromise your loading time.

When you want to make an impressive site, keep in mind that a clean design can do wonders. We’re not telling you to ban widgets completely (save them for the end of your blog posts or site pages) but we’re just telling you to keep it simple.

Another thing you can do to speed up load times is by altering the WordPress options to show excerpts instead of full posts and limiting the posts per page by five to seven each.

4. Free third-party WordPress themes

Free WordPress themes may sound like the best thing since sliced bread but free things come with a price tag. When you’re looking for a theme on WordPress, you’re likely to click on those free ones made by a third-party. They’re free anyway, so what can go wrong? Right?

Apparently, a lot of things. Like how free music and movies can come with spyware or malware, free third-party WordPress themes may be one of the causes for your slow website.

How you can fix this

One of the best ways is to only use themes from the official WordPress theme repository. If you want something more personalized, consider allocating less than $ 100 in a premium theme you can customize to your heart’s desire.

5. Unreliable web hosting

Having a web hosting server that’s not properly configured can harm your loading times. When picking a web hosting server, more often than not, we’ll try to choose the most budget-friendly option. That may be good in the beginning when you’re just starting out. 

However, once the amount of traffic you’re receiving suddenly spikes, your host and server won’t be able to handle a huge amount of users at a single time. Sudden spikes can happen especially during times you launch a new online marketing campaign or a new product. 

Instead of looking for a free or cheap web hosting solution, it’s best to use a well-known host that usually runs between four to eight dollars a month, which isn’t so bad. 

Other than the price, you should also keep in mind how fast the server responds when it deals with problems. Sometimes your site can have emergencies and filling in forms just won’t cut it. Do your research thoroughly and read reviews about the company and its support. 

6. Invisible loading images or videos

When you’re scrolling through a page, there is some content you can’t see immediately. Some are still at the bottom of the page and are visible after a visitor arrives at the exact spot. 

So, how is this a problem? The more images you tell your server to fetch, the slower your site will load. The reality is, the server usually fetches all of these images and videos (even the ones you can’t see yet). This is a huge factor for mobile devices since they have limited speed and data.

This can be fixed with “lazy loading” which means fetching the file only if it’s needed and only when it’s on the screen. A couple of plugins you can use for your WordPress site are BJ Lazy Load and LazyLoad. 

7. Coding issue

Your website is made of code. The more elaborate your site is, the more coding is necessary. Just because you want your website to be ideal, that doesn’t mean the coding should be over the top. Irrelevant or unnecessary code will only slow down your site since the server has to work through more data in order to get to a page.

An example of a coding issue

Unnecessary redirects which happen when the code refers to two different forms of the website URL. Although this seems like something trivial, it makes a huge difference.

When a redirect takes place, a user has to wait for the page to load twice. Using too many redirects means you’re doubling the load time.

To fix this, you need to review your code in detail. Most of the time, the root cause of slow load times could be from a coding issue. This occurs when the code isn’t consistent and causes too many redirects.

8. Not using a content delivery network (CDN)

CDN is a network of independent servers deployed in different geographic locations that serves web content to visitors. Depending on the location of your website visitors, the content requested gets served by the node that’s at the nearest data center. 

The problem with not using a CDN is that many sites can be slow, especially if they have visitors from around the world. Although a CDN isn’t necessary, it can help serve your web content much faster and reduce the loading time.

Now that you’re aware of some of the most and least obvious loading time killers, it’s time to get cracking with fixing them for your website.

Got some more load time killers that you wish to add to this list? Share them in the comments.

Nat McNeely is Digital Marketing Manager of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. 

The post The silent killers of loading time and how to fix them appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Why it might have been time for new leadership at SAP

October 12, 2019 No Comments

SAP CEO Bill McDermott announced he was stepping down last night after a decade at the helm in an announcement that shocked many. It’s always tough to measure the performance of an enterprise leader when he or she leaves. Some people look at stock price over their tenure. Some at culture. Some at the acquisitions made. Whatever the measure, it will be up to the new co-CEOs Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein to put their own mark on the company.

What form that will take remains to be seen. McDermott’s tenure ended without much warning, but it also happened against a wider backdrop that includes other top executives and board members leaving the company over the last year, an activist investor coming on board and some controversial licensing changes in recent years.

Why now?

The timing certainly felt sudden. McDermott, who was interviewed at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise last month sounded more like a man who was fully engaged in the job, not one ready to leave, but a month later he’s gone.

But as McDermott told our own Frederic Lardinois last night, after 10 years, it seemed like the right time to leave. “The consensus was 10 years is about the right amount of time for a CEO because you’ve accomplished a lot of things if you did the job well, but you certainly didn’t stay too long. And if you did really well, you had a fantastic success plan,” he said in the interview.

There is no reason to doubt that, but you should at least look at context and get a sense of what has been going in the company. As the new co-CEOs take over for McDermott, several other executives including SAP SuccessFactors COO Brigette McInnis-Day, Robert Enslin, president of its cloud business and a board member, CTO Björn Goerke and Bernd Leukert, a member of the executive board have all left this year.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


It’s Time for Facebook to Become the Google Grants of Social Media

July 22, 2019 No Comments

Facebook Ads NonprofitWhenever I speak to Nonprofits (which is something I love to do), I always evangelize the importance of leveraging all of the online technology companies which offer “in-kind” services, especially Google Grants. However, for marketers in today’s world, Google Grants is simply not enough. Identifying with potential donors, volunteers and simple awareness has evolved way beyond the search engines and into our Facebook and Twitter feeds as we all crave instant news, gossip and basic information. In this post, I will discuss not only the steps that have already been taken by Facebook, but also how much more they need to do to fulfill their obligation to assist those organizations in need.

What Facebook needs to Learn from Google

In the early months of 2002, Google relaunched its AdWords platform with a new cost-per-click (CPC) pricing model that made it increasingly more popular and successful with both large and smaller companies. It was this achievement that opened the eyes of both the Google founders and other Google executives, to provide the same opportunity for Nonprofits by giving them free ads on Google.com. In essence, they believed that the Adwords platform would enable non-profits too reach a much larger audience and connect with the people who were searching for information about their specific cause or programs. As you will see below, it has grown by leaps and bounds….

Screenshot from the new Google Grants Blog:

Why Facebook Doesn’t Understand the Opportunity

After seeing the success of Google grants for the past 13 years, you would think Facebook would have a Nonprofit plan already in place to offer Free advertising to Nonprofits. However, it appears that even though they have made attempts to achieve this, it was simply not enough. According to the great article by AdWeek entitled: “Nonprofits Rely Heavily on Social Media to Raise Awareness“, author Kimberlee Morrison mentions that the social media presence is growing significantly for nonprofits. She goes on to say: “The report shows an increase of 29 percent in Facebook fans across all verticals and a 25 percent increase in Twitter followers. What’s more, there are big increases in sharing and likes from sources outside the follower base, so it would be wise for nonprofits to play to that strength on social sites if their aim is attracting a wider user base.

How Facebook Failed in its First Attempt

Back on November 15, 2015, The Nonprofit Times published an interesting article entitled “$ 2 Million In Facebook Ads Going To Nonprofits” in which Facebook announced in partnership with ActionSprout, that they will distribute $ 2 million in Facebook Ads credits during the holiday season. These Facebook Ads credits (up to $ 1,500 each) will be given out to roughly two-thousand nonprofits. According to author Andy Segedin, he states that …according Drew Bernard, CEO and co-founder. Organizations will receive credit allotments of $ 600, $ 900, $ 1,200 or $ 1,500 that will be granted from December through February. All applicants will be set up with a free ActionSprout account, Bernard said.

The article goes on to say: “Bernard hopes that the credit giveaway will help organizations post more and better content on Facebook. The company plans to publish key findings based off of the distribution and use of the credits, but will not move forward with any follow-up efforts until information is gathered. “This is a test to see what we can learn, and with what we learn we’ll all go back to the drawing board and see if there’s something we should do next with this”.

If you are interested in hearing more about the “key findings” of this test, your going to have to wait a little while and also give them your email address. (Not very Philanthropic)

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 10.17.19 AM

In Conclusion:

If you can tell by my tone, I am somewhat disappointed by Facebook’s lack of initiative with their efforts to help Nonprofits.  In my opinion, they offer a much stronger platform than Google Adwords based on their “intense” targeting as well as their “ripe and persuasive audience”. I am also quite shocked that they could not follow in the footsteps of Google’s 13 years of supporting Nonprofits with their Google Grants Programs. To end insultr to injury, I am also dumbfounded that they not only had to partner with another company but also label their efforts as a test to limited number of Nonprofits for just a couple month. What’s the point of a test, when you know Nonprofits could only benefit from the Free Advertising.

You almost get the sense that this was for the benefit for everyone else, except for the Nonprofit which needs it the most.


PPC Marketing Consultant | Google Ads Agency


The Case For Time Flexible PPC Budgets

May 22, 2019 No Comments

When budgets are time flexible, the client’s bottom line is more than likely to be positively impacted. I’ve noticed four specific areas where this setup is tremendously beneficial: flexibility With Inconsistent Seasonality, End of Month Opportunity, Capilization on Unexpected Traffic Changes, More Room for Error

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Google Remarketing Strategies That’ll Work Every Single Time

March 24, 2019 No Comments

Google remarketing strategies can help reel back in previously lost conversions. Learn which strategies work and apply them in your campaigns today!

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Time is Ltd. uses data from Slack and other cloud software to help companies improve productivity

March 12, 2019 No Comments

Time is Ltd., a Prague-based startup offering “productivity software analytics” to help companies gain insights from employees’ use of Slack, Office 365, G Suite and other enterprise software, has raised €3 million in funding.

Leading the round is Mike Chalfen — who previously co-founded London venture capital firm Mosaic Ventures but has since decided to operate as a solo investor — with participation from Accel. The investment will be used by Time is Ltd. to continue building the platform for large enterprises that want to better understand the patterns of behaviour hidden inside the various cloud software they run on.

“Time is Ltd. was founded… to help large corporations and companies get a view into insights and productivity of teams,” co-founder and CEO Jan Rezab tells me. “Visualising insights around calendars, time, and communication will help companies to understand real data behind their productivity”.

Powered by machine learning, the productivity software analytics platform plugs into the cloud software tools that enterprises typically use to collaborate across various departments. It then analyses various metadata pulled from these software tools, such as who is communicating with who and time spent on Slack, or which teams are meeting, where and for how long as per various calendars. The idea is to enable managers to gain a better understanding of where productivity is lost or could be improved and to tie changes in these patterns to business goals.

Rezab cites the example of a large company undergoing “agile” transformation. “If you want to steer a massive company of 5,000 plus people, you really should understand the impact of your actions a bit more much earlier, not after the fact,” he says. “One of the hypothesis of an agile transformation is, for example, that managers really get involved a bit less and things work a bit more streamlined. You see from our data that this is or is not happening, and you can take corrective action”.

Or it could be something as simple as a large company with multiple offices that is conducting too many meetings. Time is Ltd. is able to show how the number of meetings held is increasing and what departments or teams is instigating them. “You can also show the inter-departmental video meeting efficiency, and if the people, for example, often need to travel to these meetings, how long does that takes vs. digital meetings — so you can generally help and recommend the company take specific actions,” explains Rezab.

Sales is another area that could benefit from productivity analytics, with Time is Ltd. revealing that most sales teams actually spend the majority of their meeting time inside the company not outside as you would think. “The structure of these internal meetings varies; planning for these events or just on-boarding and education,” says the Time is Ltd. CEO. “You can, so to speak, follow the time from revenue to different teams… and then see over time how it changes, and how it impacts sales productivity”.

Meanwhile, investor Mike Chalfen describes the young startup as a new breed of data-driven services that use “significant but under-utilised datasets”. “Productivity is one of the largest software markets globally, but lacks deep enterprise analytics to drive intelligent operational management for large businesses,” he says in a statement.

That’s not to say Time is Ltd. isn’t without competition, which includes Microsoft itself. “Our biggest competitor is Microsoft Workplace Analytics,” says Rezab. “However, Microsoft does not integrate other than MS products. Our advantage is that we are a productivity platform to integrate all of the cloud tools. Starting with Slack, SAP Success Factors, Zoom, and countless others”.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


It’s Time for Facebook to Become the Google Grants of Social Media

February 28, 2019 No Comments

Facebook Ads NonprofitWhenever I speak to Nonprofits (which is something I love to do), I always evangelize the importance of leveraging all of the online technology companies which offer “in-kind” services, especially Google Grants. However, for marketers in today’s world, Google Grants is simply not enough. Identifying with potential donors, volunteers and simple awareness has evolved way beyond the search engines and into our Facebook and Twitter feeds as we all crave instant news, gossip and basic information. In this post, I will discuss not only the steps that have already been taken by Facebook, but also how much more they need to do to fulfill their obligation to assist those organizations in need.

What Facebook needs to Learn from Google

In the early months of 2002, Google relaunched its AdWords platform with a new cost-per-click (CPC) pricing model that made it increasingly more popular and successful with both large and smaller companies. It was this achievement that opened the eyes of both the Google founders and other Google executives, to provide the same opportunity for Nonprofits by giving them free ads on Google.com. In essence, they believed that the Adwords platform would enable non-profits too reach a much larger audience and connect with the people who were searching for information about their specific cause or programs. As you will see below, it has grown by leaps and bounds….

Recent screenshot from the new Google Grants Blog:

 

Why Facebook Doesn’t Understand the Opportunity

After seeing the success of Google grants for the past 13 years, you would think Facebook would have a Nonprofit plan already in place to offer Free advertising to Nonprofits. However, it appears that even though they have made attempts to achieve this, it was simply not enough. According to the great article by AdWeek entitled: “Nonprofits Rely Heavily on Social Media to Raise Awareness“, author Kimberlee Morrison mentions that the social media presence is growing significantly for nonprofits. She goes on to say: “The report shows an increase of 29 percent in Facebook fans across all verticals and a 25 percent increase in Twitter followers. What’s more, there are big increases in sharing and likes from sources outside the follower base, so it would be wise for nonprofits to play to that strength on social sites if their aim is attracting a wider user base.

How Facebook Failed in its First Attempt

Back on November 15, 2015, The Nonprofit Times published an interesting article entitled “$ 2 Million In Facebook Ads Going To Nonprofits” in which Facebook announced in partnership with ActionSprout, that they will distribute $ 2 million in Facebook Ads credits during the holiday season. These Facebook Ads credits (up to $ 1,500 each) will be given out to roughly two-thousand nonprofits. According to author Andy Segedin, he states that …according Drew Bernard, CEO and co-founder. Organizations will receive credit allotments of $ 600, $ 900, $ 1,200 or $ 1,500 that will be granted from December through February. All applicants will be set up with a free ActionSprout account, Bernard said.

The article goes on to say: “Bernard hopes that the credit giveaway will help organizations post more and better content on Facebook. The company plans to publish key findings based off of the distribution and use of the credits, but will not move forward with any follow-up efforts until information is gathered. “This is a test to see what we can learn, and with what we learn we’ll all go back to the drawing board and see if there’s something we should do next with this”.

If you are interested in hearing more about the “key findings” of this test, your going to have to wait a little while and also give them your email address. (Not very Philanthropic)

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 10.17.19 AM

 

In Conclusion:

If you can tell by my tone, I am somewhat disappointed by Facebook’s lack of initiative with their efforts to help Nonprofits.  In my opinion, they offer a much stronger platform than Google Adwords based on their “intense” targeting as well as their “ripe and persuasive audience”. I am also quite shocked that they could not follow in the footsteps of Google’s 13 years of supporting Nonprofits with their Google Grants Programs. To end insultr to injury, I am also dumbfounded that they not only had to partner with another company but also label their efforts as a test to limited number of Nonprofits for just a couple month. What’s the point of a test, when you know Nonprofits could only benefit from the Free Advertising.

You almost get the sense that this was for the benefit for everyone else, except for the Nonprofit which needs it the most.


PPC Marketing Agency | Search Marketing Firm | Adwords Certified Consultant


Circle raises $20M Series B to help even more parents limit screen time

February 24, 2019 No Comments

Circle makes a fantastic screen time management tool and today the company announced a round of funding to help fuel its growth. The $ 20 million Series B included participation from Netgear and T-Mobile, along with Third Kind Venture Capital and follow-on investments from Relay Ventures and other Series A participants.

With this round of funding, Circle has raised more than $ 30 million to date, including a Series A from 2017.

According to the company, Circle intends to use the funds to expand its product offering and form new partnerships with hardware makers and mobile carriers.

The timing is perfect. Parents are increasingly looking at ways to make sure children and teenagers do not become addicted to screens.

Circle works different from other solutions attempting to limit screen time. It’s hardware based and sits plugged into a home’s network. It allows an administrator, like a parent, to easily restrict the amount of time a device, such as an iPhone owned by a child, is able to access the local network. It’s easy and that’s the point.

Circle sits in a small, but growing field of services attempting to give parents the ability to limit their child’s screen time. Some of these solutions, like Apple’s, sit in the cloud. And though Apple’s works well, it is limited to iOS and Mac OS devices. Others, like those on Netgear’s Orbi products, offer a similar network-wide net, but are much harder to use than Circle.

In my household we use tools like Circle. The lure of the screen is just too great and these solutions, when used in combination with traditional parenting, ensure my children stare into the real world — at least for a few minutes a day.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Pew: Social media for the first time tops newspapers as a news source for US adults

December 10, 2018 No Comments

It’s not true that everyone gets their news from Facebook and Twitter. But it is now true that more U.S. adults get their news from social media than from print newspapers. According to a new report from Pew Research Center out today, social media has for the first time surpassed newspapers as a preferred source of news for American adults. However, social media is still far behind other traditional news sources, like TV and radio, for example.

Last year, the portion of those who got their news from social media was around equal to those who got their news from print newspapers, Pew says. But in its more recent survey conducted from July 30 through August 12, 2018, that had changed.

Now, one-in-five U.S. adults (20 percent) are getting news from social media, compared with just 16 percent of those who get news from newspapers, the report found. (Pew had asked respondents if they got their news “often” from the various platforms.)

The change comes at a time when newspaper circulation is on the decline, and its popularity as a news medium is being phased out — particularly with younger generations. In fact, the report noted that print only remains popular today with the 65 and up crowd, where 39 percent get their news from newspapers. By comparison, no more than 18 percent of any other age group does.

While the decline of print has now given social media a slight edge, it’s nowhere near dominating other formats.

Instead, TV is still the most popular destination for getting the news, even though that’s been dropping over the past couple of years. TV is then followed by news websites, radio and then social media and newspapers.

But “TV news” doesn’t necessarily mean cable news networks, Pew clarifies.

In reality, local news is the most popular, with 37 percent getting their news there often. Meanwhile, 30 percent get cable TV news often and 25 percent watch the national evening news shows often.

However, if you look at the combination of news websites and social media together, a trend toward increasing news consumption from the web is apparent. Together, 43 percent of U.S. adults get their news from the web in some way, compared to 49 percent from TV.

There’s a growing age gap between TV and the web, too.

A huge majority (81 percent) of those 65 and older get news from TV, and so does 65 percent of those ages 50 to 64. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of the youngest consumers — those ages 18 to 29 — get their news from TV. This is the group pushing forward the cord cutting trend, too — or more specifically, many of them are the “cord-nevers,” as they’re never signing up for pay TV subscriptions in the first place. So it’s not surprising they’re not watching TV news.

Plus, a meager 2 percent get their news from newspapers in this group.

This young demographic greatly prefers digital consumption, with 27 percent getting news from news websites and 36 percent from social media. That is to say, they’re four times as likely than those 65 and up to get news from social media.

Meanwhile, online news websites are the most popular with the 30 to 49-year-old crowd, with 42 percent saying they get their news often from this source.

Despite their preference for digital, younger Americans’ news consumption is better spread out across mediums, Pew points out.

“Younger Americans are also unique in that they don’t rely on one platform in the way that the majority of their elders rely on TV,” Pew researcher Elisa Shearer writes. “No more than half of those ages 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 get news often from any one news platform,” she says.


Social – TechCrunch


It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to coordinate efforts on hate speech

September 2, 2018 No Comments

Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, there has been burgeoning awareness of the hate speech on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While activists have pressured these companies to improve their content moderation, few groups (outside of the German government) have outright sued the platforms for their actions.

That’s because of a legal distinction between media publications and media platforms that has made solving hate speech online a vexing problem.

Take, for instance, an op-ed published in the New York Times calling for the slaughter of an entire minority group.  The Times would likely be sued for publishing hate speech, and the plaintiffs may well be victorious in their case. Yet, if that op-ed were published in a Facebook post, a suit against Facebook would likely fail.

The reason for this disparity? Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which provides platforms like Facebook with a broad shield from liability when a lawsuit turns on what its users post or share. The latest uproar against Alex Jones and Infowars has led many to call for the repeal of section 230 – but that may lead to government getting into the business of regulating speech online. Instead, platforms should step up to the plate and coordinate their policies so that hate speech will be considered hate speech regardless of whether Jones uses Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to propagate his hate. 

A primer on section 230 

Section 230 is considered a bedrock of freedom of speech on the internet. Passed in the mid-1990s, it is credited with freeing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube from the risk of being sued for content their users upload, and therefore powering the exponential growth of these companies. If it weren’t for section 230, today’s social media giants would have long been bogged down with suits based on what their users post, with the resulting necessary pre-vetting of posts likely crippling these companies altogether. 

Instead, in the more than twenty years since its enactment, courts have consistently found section 230 to be a bar to suing tech companies for user-generated content they host. And it’s not only social media platforms that have benefited from section 230; sharing economy companies have used section 230 to defend themselves, with the likes of Airbnb arguing they’re not responsible for what a host posts on their site. Courts have even found section 230 broad enough to cover dating apps. When a man sued one for not verifying the age of an underage user, the court tossed out the lawsuit finding an app user’s misrepresentation of his age not to be the app’s responsibility because of section 230.

Private regulation of hate speech 

Of course, section 230 has not meant that hate speech online has gone unchecked. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all have their own extensive policies prohibiting users from posting hate speech. Social media companies have hired thousands of moderators to enforce these policies and to hold violating users accountable by suspending them or blocking their access altogether. But the recent debacle with Alex Jones and Infowars presents a case study on how these policies can be inconsistently applied.  

Jones has for years fabricated conspiracy theories, like the one claiming that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that Democrats run a global child-sex trafficking ring. With thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Jones’ hate speech has had real life consequences. From the brutal harassment of Sandy Hook parents to a gunman storming a pizza restaurant in D.C. to save kids from the restaurant’s nonexistent basement, his messages have had serious deleterious consequences for many. 

Alex Jones and Infowars were finally suspended from ten platforms by our count – with even Twitter falling in line and suspending him for a week after first dithering. But the varying and delayed responses exposed how different platforms handle the same speech.  

Inconsistent application of hate speech rules across platforms, compounded by recent controversies involving the spread of fake news and the contribution of social media to increased polarization, have led to calls to amend or repeal section 230. If the printed press and cable news can be held liable for propagating hate speech, the argument goes, then why should the same not be true online – especially when fully two-thirds of Americans now report getting at least some of their news from social media.  Amid the chorus of those calling for more regulation of tech companies, section 230 has become a consistent target. 

Should hate speech be regulated? 

But if you need convincing as to why the government is not best placed to regulate speech online, look no further than Congress’s own wording in section 230. The section enacted in the mid-90s states that online platforms “offer users a great degree of control over the information that they receive, as well as the potential for even greater control in the future as technology develops” and “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.”  

Section 230 goes on to declare that it is the “policy of the United States . . . to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet.”  Based on the above, section 230 offers the now infamous liability protection for online platforms.  

From the simple fact that most of what we see on our social media is dictated by algorithms over which we have no control, to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, to increased polarization because of the propagation of fake news on social media, one can quickly see how Congress’s words in 1996 read today as a catalogue of inaccurate predictions. Even Ron Wyden, one of the original drafters of section 230, himself admits today that drafters never expected an “individual endorsing (or denying) the extermination of millions of people, or attacking the victims of horrific crimes or the parents of murdered children” to be enabled through the protections offered by section 230.

It would be hard to argue that today’s Congress – having shown little understanding in recent hearings of how social media operates to begin with – is any more qualified at predicting the effects of regulating speech online twenty years from now.   

More importantly, the burden of complying with new regulations will definitely result in a significant barrier to entry for startups and therefore have the unintended consequence of entrenching incumbents. While Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter may have the resources and infrastructure to handle compliance with increased moderation or pre-vetting of posts that regulations might impose, smaller startups will be at a major disadvantage in keeping up with such a burden.

Last chance before regulation 

The answer has to lie with the online platforms themselves. Over the past two decades, they have amassed a wealth of experience in detecting and taking down hate speech. They have built up formidable teams with varied backgrounds to draft policies that take into account an ever-changing internet. Their profits have enabled them to hire away top talent, from government prosecutors to academics and human rights lawyers.  

These platforms also have been on a hiring spree in the last couple of years to ensure that their product policy teams – the ones that draft policies and oversee their enforcement – are more representative of society at large. Facebook proudly announced that its product policy team now includes “a former rape crisis counselor, an academic who has spent her career studying hate organizations . . . and a teacher.” Gone are the days when a bunch of engineers exclusively decided where to draw the lines. Big tech companies have been taking the drafting and enforcement of their policies ever more seriously.

What they now need to do is take the next step and start to coordinate policies so that those who wish to propagate hate speech can no longer game policies across platforms. Waiting for controversies like Infowars to become a full-fledged PR nightmare before taking concrete action will only increase calls for regulation. Proactively pooling resources when it comes to hate speech policies and establishing industry-wide standards will provide a defensible reason to resist direct government regulation.

The social media giants can also build public trust by helping startups get up to speed on the latest approaches to content moderation. While any industry consortium around coordinating hate speech is certain to be dominated by the largest tech companies, they can ensure that policies are easy to access and widely distributed.

Coordination between fierce competitors may sound counterintuitive. But the common problem of hate speech and the gaming of online platforms by those trying to propagate it call for an industry-wide response. Precedent exists for tech titans coordinating when faced with a common threat. Just last year, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube formalized their “Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism” – a partnership to curb the threat of terrorist content online. Fighting hate speech is no less laudable a goal.

Self-regulation is an immense privilege. To the extent that big tech companies want to hold onto that privilege, they have a responsibility to coordinate the policies that underpin their regulation of speech and to enable startups and smaller tech companies to get access to these policies and enforcement mechanisms.


Social – TechCrunch