Social media platforms hold immense power over the information we see online. While they can offer valuable spaces to connect, too many people are finding their content has been removed, and with it their right to freedom of expression.
We need platforms to remove illegal content consistent with international human rights law. But many communities - especially those who are already marginalised - are finding themselves silenced online for no legitimate reason.
We believe that wrongful content removals is a pervasive issue that hits at the core of one of the most fundamental of human rights – the right to free expression.
Estimates show that algorithms moderating content on social media have an accuracy rate of just 80%. This leaves a huge volume of people and communities affected by inaccurate and unjust content removals.
Governments around the world are pressuring social media platforms to take content down. 74% of governments’ removal requests to Twitter July–December 2018 came from Turkey and Russia. Particularly in the context of authoritarian regimes, content removals have to be more accountable.
Human rights defenders, LGBTQI communities and political opposition groups across the world are finding their content removed and accounts deleted. Voices of difference and dissent are being silenced online.
Content restrictions often shut down debate on political issues and matters of public interest.
What needs to change
Social media platforms are important tools for communicating, finding news and connecting with others. But they are also responsible for taking down information that they record as being against their rules (Terms of Service) or national laws. Sometimes information is wrongfully taken down and this stops us from communicating, obtaining important information and connecting with groups online.
We need platforms to safeguard freedom of expression online and provide more transparency when content is removed.
We are calling on for social media platforms to provide a human-rights centred process that guarantees notice, the right to appeal and transparent reporting when content is blocked and accounts removed.
A right to appeal
ARTICLE 19 and partners is campaigning for Youtube, Twitter and Facebook to provide all users the means to challenge decisions to remove their content. This means that content taken down in error or unjustly will have a second chance to be righted – and the right to expression restored. An appeals mechanism will also confirm that content that should stay down will stay down.
We need more transparency
We are also calling on companies to proactively publish more data on when they remove content; for what reasons removals takes place; how many appeals are made to challenge takedowns; and what the outcome of appeals are.
Join us for a series of events this summer where we will hear from activists and digital rights experts from across the world on their experiences and challenges fighting for freedom of expression on social media.
RightsCon is the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age. Join us for a side event on 10 June to hear from digital activists and experts from around the world on how social media policies are censoring their work.
London workshop: Breaking the digital sphere
Join us in London on 20 June for an expert panel and workshop on how we can amplify voices marginalised by ineffective takedown policies.
- Side-stepping rights: Regulating speech by contract
- Open letter to ask Facebook to provide a mechanism to appeal content censorship for all users
- Twitter Rules: Analysis against international standards on freedom of expression
- Facebook Community Standards: Analysis against international standards on freedom of expression