Have you ever had a social media post or account taken down and not understood why?
Companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube hold huge influence over our ability to exercise on our human rights online, through the application of content rules which determine what can and cannot be shared on their platforms. However, these rules are often vague and broad, and their application is inconsistent and biased. This means a large amount of content is wrongly removed (or wrongly kept online), affecting our right to freedom of expression, and ability to be part of public debate and speak out on the issues that matter to us. Too often, these wrongful removals affect those already experiencing discrimination and silencing – including women and LGBTQI people, as well as human rights defenders and journalists.
However, social media companies are still reluctant to tell us how and why they remove content, and how often they get it wrong. Transparency reports offer little understanding of the scale of the problem, preventing analysis by civil society and researchers about how much companies are limiting our rights. However, it’s clear the issue is far-reaching – we’ve spoken to activists and artists around the world who have faced content and account takedowns, and even ARTICLE 19’s accounts and posts have been suspended or removed for trying to raise awareness of the issue.
We’re working to improve protection for freedom of expression online, and push back against social media companies’ restrictions on our rights, campaigning for them to better align their community standards with international human rights laws; to improve their transparency and appeals processes; to enable independent multi-stakeholder bodies to review content moderation decisions; and ultimately to work towards unbundling of content moderation and hosting services, to reduce the power of big social media platforms over our rights online.
To help support this work, and gain better insight into how content moderation is affecting users’ human rights, we want to gather testimony from people whose content and accounts have been wrongfully taken down by social media platforms. We want to hear from you if you’ve ever had content removed from social media which you think didn’t break the rules, and impacted your freedom of expression. We hope to use this research and case studies to support our Missing Voices campaign and other advocacy on the impact of content moderation on the right to freedom of expression, to push social media companies to make more effort to protect our rights online, and ensure governments and regulators understand the scale of the problem and its impacts.
We believe more needs to be done to protect freedom of expression in the content moderation process, and it’s time companies, governments and regulators understood how serious the problem is.
If you’d like to share your story, please complete our survey. We won’t share what you tell us without your consent, and while we can’t promise to be able to take up every case, we want to help raise the voices of people whose ability to speak out and express themselves is being silenced by opaque company practices.