The Internet is vast: at last count it was made up of 200 million active domains. Among these are sites that primarily serve as intermediaries for user speech—platforms for users to communicate with each other, sharing both their own thoughts and well as the speech of others. Together these platforms form the sort of public commons for the free and unmediated exchange of ideas the Internet is meant to be. Indeed, some platforms themselves have such wide adoption and global reach that they function as public commons.
Few of the platforms, however, are completely unmoderated—all are governed by terms of service that to varying extents alert users that certain content removed or treated unfavorably in some way. And even without such terms of service, which can typically be problematic in their own right, the platforms largely have a legal right to moderate the user content posted to them.
Notwithstanding that legal right, and recognizing the important role these platforms play in facilitating robust global communication, we believe that they should promote free expression and transparency and base moderation practices and policies on human rights norms.
Combating Platform Censorship
EFF has outlined industry best practices for protecting online speech. Through the Santa Clara Principles and our blog posts, we lay out the ideal mechanisms surrounding content moderation, including processes for addressing cases where user content has been restricted. The principles provide a framework for platforms that want to commit to free speech and due process.
In instances where platforms have cracked down on online speech too broadly, EFF draws attention to those cases through TOSsed Out and Onlinecensorship.org. The former tracks the shortcomings of sloppy content moderations and motivates online platforms to modify how they review content. The latter provides information about platform censorship to the public, lays out the appeals process for the web’s most popular content hosting platforms, and provides a toolkit for journalists reporting on the topic.
Above all, we listen to our community and try to promote mechanisms that ensure their rights are protected. Our goal is to give users as much control over their own content as possible by creating resources that educate users on their rights, and tools which give them the power to defend those rights.