The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch are among a consortium of over 70 human rights group that have joined together in asking Facebook to implement a clear process for content take down requests. The group has sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, and have exhorted him to enact the Santa Clara principles.
In case you are wondering, the Santa Clara principles are a series of moderation guidelines propagated by academics and non-profit organizations earlier this year. It is not the only one of its kind, and lately, the inventor of Internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, also came forward and announced the fact that he was working on a set of guidelines that could help improve the internet as a whole.
As per the letter sent to Zuckerberg:
Facebook’s Community Standards exhibit bias and are unevenly applied across different languages and cultural contexts. Offering a remedy mechanism, as well as more transparency, will go a long way toward supporting user expression.
The consortium calls on Facebook to implement a set of principles that would clearly define how and why a piece of content on the platform violates its policies, and gives folks the option to appeal the social media platform’s initial judgement, which should have a human moderator involved somewhere.
As per the EFF:
While Facebook is under enormous — and still mounting — pressure to remove material that is truly threatening, without transparency, fairness, and processes to identify and correct mistakes, Facebook’s content takedown policies too often backfire and silence the very people that should have their voices heard on the platform
The group also wants transparent reports on how much content was taken down in a given period of time, how many were appealed, how many appeals were successful, and so on and so forth. While all these principles are good in theory, they would require Facebook to arrange massive manpower, which I am not sure it wants to at the moment. The company has already deployed thousands of humans to sift through its platform and weed out non-compliant content.
The company implemented a limited appeals system earlier this year when it gave users the right to appeal where nudity, sexual activity, violence, of hate speech were involved. The appeal is to be reviewed by a human and responded to, within 24-hours. In their letter to Zuckerberg, the group has lauded the move calling it a positive step, but have also claimed that it does not go far enough.
This is a positive development, but it doesn’t go far enough. Facebook users are only able to appeal content decisions in a limited set of circumstances, and it is impossible for users to know how pervasive erroneous content takedowns are without increased transparency on Facebook’s part.
While Facebook did not respond directly to the letter, it did release a statement in which it said that these are all important issues, it already had an appeals process, and that it was working doing more in the future.