Content moderation and its effects remained at the forefront of the public imagination in 2019, with stories of takedowns from Sweden to Syria and everywhere in between gaining media attention. Inconsistent and unfair moderation from companies—often under great pressure from governments and other external actors—is still a serious problem, but one that EFF and our many allies are actively working to shine a light on, and improve.
To that end, we were proud to see so many companies respond favorably to our Who Has Your Back? demands to provide more transparency to users. This year, we ranked companies based on six criteria, which only one company—Reddit—met in full. Still, we were particularly pleased that twelve companies chose to endorse the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation, and hope that their support propels them to implementation.
Another key development this year came from Facebook, as the company sought to grapple with growing public concern from all sides about their content moderation practices. Earlier this year, Facebook announced the creation of an external oversight board and convened a series of consultations, in which EFF participated. While we remain skeptical of the board’s operations, we believe that it could improve the status quo of content moderation for many users.
In order to draw more attention to content takedowns, we launched TOSsed Out, a project that highlights egregious examples that EFF receives from users or spots in the media. The project will continue into next year, and we hope that users will continue to send us their “favorite” takedowns.
We’re positive that next year will bring greater awareness of the problem and collaboration with allies, and we hope that companies will wisen up and work with us to mitigate the harm of wrongful takedowns. In that vein, here are just a few things we plan to address next year:
- Expression related to sex and sexuality has been pushed farther to the fringes in recent years, thanks to SESTA/FOSTA and decisions by companies like Tumblr to restrict sexual speech. This year, we saw a groundswell of protest against parochial policies. Next year, we’ll be bringing even more attention to this ongoing issue.
- We remain dedicated to ensuring that companies are providing transparency to their users and the public, and giving users a path of remedy (appeals) when they make mistakes.
- As a member of the Christchurch Call Advisory Network, we’ll be watching developments of the Call and the new iteration of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) closely and continuing to raise concerns about how terrorism rules are being used to stifle human rights defenders.
This article is part of our Year in Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2019.
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