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The Best of the Internet: Content Creators Panel brought together some of DC’s top content creators and influencers – the founder of a local news site, the photographer behind one of DC’s top Instagram handles, and the founder of an online marketplace – to talk about how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) enables their work and passions. 

Dan Silverman, founder of popular DC hyper-local news site PoPville, Laurie Collins, photographer behind the popular Instagram handle @DCcitygirl, and Yinka Ogunsunlade, owner of the eBay retail marketplace Fashionably Legal, joined IA’s Scott Haber to discuss their experiences building local communities online.

Internet Association’s Scott Haber opened the conversation by highlighting how CDA 230 enables the platforms and content that make Dan’s, Laurie’s, and Yinka’s passions possible. Scott detailed how CDA 230 allows platforms to host content – including the content of everyone on stage and in the audience – and also allows platforms to moderate their sites through codes of conduct. 

The conversation kicked off with a discussion of the ways content creators manage interactions with their local communities online and their broader communities offline. The panelists all agreed that they felt a strong sense of community on their platforms, mentioning sharing tips with other creators, building offline friendships, or watching followers create their own communities and conversations in the comment sections. 

Yinka said his experience being a part of the broader eBay community helped his business flourish. 

The community on eBay has been tremendous… I was able to go to eBay Open, which is eBay’s annual seller conference. It’s just been an opportunity to meet like-minded sellers… gaining knowledge from them [and] how they were able to grow their business

Yinka Ogunsunlade

Laurie discussed how she’s made friends for life thanks to the DC Instagram photography community. 

[The Instagram DC community] became a group of people that ended up growing very close to each other…That first day it was never ‘Hi, I’m Laurie.’… It was always ‘Hi, I’m @DCcitygirl’ because we only knew each other from our names on Instagram… They are some of my closest, dearest friends in the whole world and part of my everyday life.

Laurie Collins

Dan Silverman noted that PoPville’s comment section developed into a diverse and flourishing set of online communities.  

There’s the basic, ‘I just want to know what’s going on in the community’. Then you have people who are super invested – I’m talking about very heavy stuff that people might not feel comfortable talking in person but actually have sort of found this online support system. And then you have people who meet in person…and then there’s like 50 other million communities.

Dan Silverman

The conversation then moved onto the role of user-generated content on the panelist’s platforms. eBay, in particular, relies on ratings and reviews to help customers determine whether or not to purchase an item, and Yinka suggested that user-generated content is one of the biggest factors driving sales on his marketplace, Fashionably Legal. 

Feedback rating on eBay is vital to any success that you have on the website. At the end of the day, you’re just another person and so they need to see that trail of successful transactions in order to feel comfortable purchasing from you.

Yinka Ogunsunlade

Laurie reflected on how her comments section helps DC visitors and residents experience DC and brings her closer to people from all over the city.

When the Christmas pop-up bar came up, my comment section was filled with people tagging other people: ‘let’s go, we have to go’… But the craziest most memorable comments… are ‘that’s me in the picture’ or ‘I live in that house’… I love that, I’ve been invited to parties from that.

Laurie Collins

Dan Silverman explained that his comments section helps him keep up with the overwhelming number of posts and niche questions on PoPville, which his followers turn to for answers on a range of topics. 

Any question that somebody asks is answered because the community… the greater Popville community is huge, and…I don’t think there’s ever been a question that has been stumped.

Dan Silverman

However, Dan also discussed the complex relationship between user-generated content and moderation. An audience member asked him to explain his rationale behind deleting or keeping unwanted comments or posts – a task he takes on alone.

It’s turned all my hair gray. That is probably the most difficult thing I deal with day-to-day. You want to have an open world, but what I’ve concluded is that…you have to figure out a balance… There is no system to solve that and so I decided early on that it’s on me… because if I didn’t do what I had to do, nobody would read the site… At the end of the day, I have to create [a] world that’s going to be a useful place.

Dan Silverman

The panel ended with all three creators discussing how internet advancements have enabled the growth of their passions and connected them with online and offline DC communities.

You couldn’t imagine things like this happening just a few years ago. Internet and technology advancement has played a huge role.

Yinka Ogunsunlade

IA’s Content Creators Panel is the second of the Best of the Internet Event series, meant to highlight how CDA 230 enables the internet to work for content creators and users.