Commentary: Content moderation by social media companies should be more transparent & aligned with human rights norms

Author: Jillian C. York & Corynne McSherry, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Published on: 30 April 2019

"Content moderation is broken. Let us count the ways." 29 April, 2019

[Content moderation] has become more pervasive and aggressive, as companies struggle to... [avoid] legal mandates... [but it] was never meant to operate at the scale of billions of users... Most major platforms outsourcing the work to companies abroad, where some workers are reportedly paid as little as $6 a day and others report traumatic working conditions... Companies’ attempts to moderate what they deem undesirable content has all too often had a disproportionate effect on already-marginalized groups... Some companies have made great strides in improving due process: Facebook, for example, expanded its appeals process last year. Still, users of various platforms complain that appeals lack result.

... Content moderation is extremely difficult to get right, and at the scale at which some companies are operating, it may be impossible... Advocates, companies, policymakers, and users [should]...remake [the broken system]... [H]ere are some preliminary recommendations:

  • Censorship must be rare and well-justified, particularly by tech giants... restrictions on speech should be both necessary and proportionate...
  • ...Companies should align their policies with human rights norms... David Kaye... UN Special Rapporteur ... recommends that companies adopt policies that allow users to "develop opinions, express themselves freely and access information of all kinds in a manner consistent with human rights law."...
  • [U]sers should be provided with more individualized tools to have control over what they see...
  • Evidence-based policymaking... Companies should work with researchers and experts to respond more appropriately to issues.

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Related companies: Alphabet Facebook Google (part of Alphabet) YouTube (part of Alphabet)