Last week, the impossible happened. Then it happened a second time. Then it happened yet again.

In the space of three breakneck days, the Internet saw three reforms that users had rallied for forever, but that seemed — until last week — like remote, unlikely dreams.

On Tuesday, months after it took a PR beating for the circus of sexist exploitation that was “The Fappening,” Reddit banned revenge porn in no uncertain terms — an extraordinary step for a platform that had defended any/every form of unsavory “speech.”

Two days later, Twitter — a self-admitted swamp of harassment — announced that it had tripled its moderation team and rolled out new reporting tools in response to persistent complaints about how the site handled abuse.

That same day, the Federal Communications Commission approved strict new rules on net neutrality, a decision bolstered by 10 million letters to Congress and 20 million posts and tweets. It was initially far from clear if the FCC would rule that way — much as it was unclear if Reddit would ever take action on revenge porn, or Twitter would ever substantively confront trolling. But ordinary users, Steve Friess wrote, showed “what The Internet would and wouldn’t tolerate.”


Since when has that mattered? Honestly! It certainly runs counter the prevailing narrative on the Internet these days. We tend to read a lot about surveillance, about privacy violations and algorithmically filtered speech, about filter bubbles and viral marketing and violent threats and censorship and Photoshop and isolation and trolling. The mainstream story about “the Internet,” such as it can be generalized that way, is that its problems exist mostly outside our control; they are, like the weather, a thing we can dislike or disagree with — but that we can never confront or escape.

Last week was a reminder that, to the contrary, the Web is as much a force acting on us as we’re a force acting on it. The power dynamics between don’t always play out that way, of course. But sometimes ordinary users win.