World’s Digital Watchdog Accuses Facebook of Selective Censorship


World’s Digital Watchdog Accuses Facebook of Selective Censorship

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) a "leading non-profit Organization defending civil liberties in the digital world" has found that Facebook differentiates from country to country in the number of "content restrictions" it has fulfilled in its Government Request Report, calling it a "sanitized term for censorship."

In a report posted to its website, the EFF claims that in the United States, Facebook’s home country, the “content restrictions” category is "conspicuously missing", but not for other countries.

"It restricts access to three items of content on its site to comply with Brazilian court orders, restricted access to 15 pieces of content to comply with Israeli laws banning Holocaust denial, restricted access to 3,624 pieces of content in Turkey and another 5,832 pieces of content in India, all under "a variety of nefarious censorship laws" said the organization.

EFF said this was strange "considering that Facebook has been suspending the accounts of inmates in the U.S. for at least four years at the requests of prison officials, and even had an easy and confidential “Inmate Takedown” form corrections officers could fill out to make the profiles disappear".

According to the article written by EFF writer David Maass, Facebook complied with 74 requests for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2014 and that between California and South Carolina, Facebook processed more than 700 takedown requests over the past four years.

Maass claims EFF could file public records requests in all 50 states to learn more, but "since Facebook’s system allows prisons to file these requests without creating a paper trail, only Facebook knows how many requests it has complied with nationwide".

" In direct response to Facebook’s secrecy, as well as inconsistencies in Facebook’s explanations of the takedown process, we have added a new category to “Who Has Your Back?”, our annual scorecard that evaluates how companies handle government requests. To earn a star in the category for “Disclosing Government Content Removal Requests,” companies do not have to reject government requests, but just be transparent about how they handle these requests," read the article.

In contrast to Facebook, Twitter not only produces the data, but it publishes an interactive map that shows details about content removal requests, while Google also provides data about government requests to remove content, including examples with information on the nature of the request and the outcome.

"Based on information we have received through public records requests filed in several states, inmates are more often caught using Facebook than any other service. But this isn’t just about prisoner accounts. The fact that Facebook has not been reporting these takedown requests raises larger questions about what other kinds of censorship Facebook has been hiding," read the report.

"In its report, Google gave examples in the U.S., such as a request from a law enforcement officer asking the company to remove a link to a negative news story from its search results and a request from a government agency to remove an allegedly defamatory video about a school administrator. (Google complied with neither request, but included both in its transparency report.)"

"If Google received requests to takedown this kind of content, then we believe it is highly likely that Facebook has received them as well. In the coming months, we may even see more direct evidence of this through crowdsourced reports at OnlineCensorship.org, an alpha-stage project co-founded by EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York".

The article concluded by urging Facebook to "publish the data and show U.S. government agencies that censorship shouldn’t happen in the dark".

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