EFF’s New Site Tracks Censored Content on Facebook, Twitter

3372412222_8b4c8f80c6_bWe all know Facebook tailors your news feed, and Twitter censors tweets and accounts on country by country basis, but have you ever wondered exactly what they’re not showing you?

Thanks to a new site from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, now you can find out. Launched last week, Onlinecensorship.org aims to lift the veil from online censorship.

The site is run by EFF and Visualizing Impact with the goal of increasing transparency and accountability. In theory, it’s going to operate along the lines of ChillingEffects.org, the site that tracks DMCA takedown notices, only with more of a focus on publicizing the censorship than simply cataloging it.

From the announcement:

Controversies over content takedowns seem to bubble up every few weeks, with users complaining about censorship of political speech, nudity, LGBT content, and many other subjects. The passionate debate about these takedowns reveals a larger issue: social media sites have an enormous impact on the public sphere, but are ultimately privately owned companies. Each corporation has their own rules and systems of governance that control users’ content, while providing little transparency about how these decisions are made.

At Onlinecensorship.org, users themselves can report on content takedowns from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube. By cataloging and analyzing aggregated cases of social media censorship, Onlinecensorship.org seeks to unveil trends in content removals, provide insight into the types of content being taken down, and learn how these takedowns impact different communities of users.

Onlinecensorship.org will accept user-contributed stories of censorship and post them on the site, and also use a blog-like format to link to stories published elsewhere on the more notable examples of censorship. The top stories today include stories published on the Washington Post, Time, Daily Dot, and the Huffington Post.

However, Onlinecensorship.org won’t operate quite the same as Chilling Effects; the site also instructs visitors on how they might file an appeal, and there’s no sign yet that the social networks will notify the site when they receive a censorship request from a gov’t.

Similar notification is sent to Chilling Effects concerning DMCA notices, and this has had a positive effect on limiting DMCA abuse (or so I would like to believe). EFF hopes its new site will have a similar impact on the private censorship efforts of Facebook, Twitter, etc.

“We want to know how social media companies enforce their terms of service. The data we collect will allow us to raise public awareness about the ways these companies are regulating speech,” said EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression and co-founder of Onlinecensorship.org Jillian C. York. “We hope that companies will respond to the data by improving their regulations and reporting mechanisms and processes—we need to hold Internet companies accountable for the ways in which they exercise power over people’s digital lives.”

image by mollybob

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

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