Today, EFF is publishing a new white paper, "Caught in the Net: The Impact of 'Extremist' Speech Regulations on Human Rights Content." The paper is a joint effort of EFF, Syrian Archive, and Witness and was written in response to the Christchurch Call to Action. This paper analyzes the impact of platform rules and content moderation practices related to "extremist" speech on human rights defenders.
The key audiences for this paper are governments and companies, particularly those that endorsed the Christchurch Call. As we wrote last month, the Call contains several important ideas, but also advocates for measures that would undoubtedly have a negative impact on freedom of expression online. The paper details several concrete instances in which content moderation has resulted in the removal of content under anti-extremism provisions, including speech advocating for Chechen and Kurdish self-determination; satirical speech about a key Hezbollah figure; and documentation of the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. We also hope that our allies will find these examples useful for their ongoing advocacy.
As more governments move to impose regulatory measures that would require the removal of extremist speech or privatize enforcement of existing laws, it's imperative that they consider the potential for collateral damage that such censorship imposes, and consider more holistic measures to combat extremism.