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Online Censorship - A Site Combating Unfair Social Media Takedowns

Online Censorship, a site set up by Visualizing Impact and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has a serious axe to grind with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All 3 have made news on numerous occasions recently because they've taken down content, for whatever reason, other platforms have been criticised for the same thing, but to nowhere near the same extent. Online Censorship allows those who have had their content removed to actually report the incident.

The way it works is relatively simple - you select which platform you've had content removed from (choices are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Flickr and YouTube) and then fill out a form, consisting of around 20 questions. The reports will help Online Censorship to gain a better understanding of removals, raise awareness about them and ultimately approach the platforms themselves and show them how they can improve. The site also includes a handy guide to how to appeal a content ban and have it reversed, immensely useful if your account has been suspended.

All the platforms have been very open about how many content take-down requests they get from governments, partly because they want to make it evident just how much pressure they're put under to change content, but they're far less honest about how much content they take down themselves. Much of the time when these removals do happen unfairly, it's because an algorithm made the decision rather than an actual human being. Worse still, many appeals are rejected out of hand purely because the company in question doesn't address terms of use violations on a case-by-case basis. If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it's probably an attempt to incite racial hatred.

Online Censorship seems to be designed to help the companies develop a newer, better form of content management that does not allow for these kinds of oversights. Photos of mothers breastfeeding being removed is one thing, but these censorship imbalances have in some cases made life very difficult for journalists, activists and political figures. As well as the forms, the site is keeping up a regular feed of news and statistics, so that the broader progress of this project can be mapped.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Online Censorship - A Site Combating Unfair Social Media Takedowns Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, December 03, 2015 Rating: 5

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