Facebook has announced changes to its Terms of Service that will allow it to remove content or restrict access if the company thinks it is necessary to avoid legal or regulatory impact.
Facebook users have started receiving notifications regarding a
change to its Terms of Service which state:
Effective October 1, 2020, section 3.2 of our Terms of Service will be updated to include: We also can remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if
we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook.
It is not clear whether this action is in response to particular laws or perhaps this references creeping
censorship being implemented worldwide. Of course it could be a pretext to continuing to impose biased political censorship in the run up to the US presidential election.
The paper poses four questions which go to the heart of the debate about regulating content online:
How can content regulation best achieve the goal of reducing harmful speech while preserving free expression? By requiring systems such as user-friendly channels for reporting content or external oversight of policies or
enforcement decisions, and by requiring procedures such as periodic public reporting of enforcement data, regulation could provide governments and individuals the information they need to accurately judge social media companies' efforts.
How can regulations enhance the accountability of internet platforms? Regulators could consider certain requirements for companies, such as publishing their content standards, consulting with stakeholders when making
significant changes to standards, or creating a channel for users to appeal a company's content removal or non-removal decision.
Should regulation require internet companies to meet certain performance targets? Companies could be incentivized to meet specific targets such as keeping the prevalence of violating content below some agreed threshold.
Should regulation define which "harmful content" should be prohibited on the internet? Laws restricting speech are generally implemented by law enforcement officials and the courts. Internet content
moderation is fundamentally different. Governments should create rules to address this complexity -- that recognize user preferences and the variation among internet services, can be enforced at scale, and allow for flexibility across language, trends
Guidelines for Future Regulation
The development of regulatory solutions should involve not just lawmakers, private companies and civil society, but also those who use online platforms. The following
principles are based on lessons we've learned from our work in combating harmful content and our discussions with others.
Incentives. Ensuring accountability in companies' content moderation systems and procedures will be the best way to create the incentives for companies to responsibly balance values like safety, privacy, and freedom of
The global nature of the internet. Any national regulatory approach to addressing harmful content should respect the global scale of the internet and the value of cross-border communications. They should
aim to increase interoperability among regulators and regulations.
Freedom of expression. In addition to complying with Article 19 of the ICCPR (and related guidance), regulators should consider the impacts of their
decisions on freedom of expression.
Technology. Regulators should develop an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of technology in content moderation and allow internet companies the flexibility to
innovate. An approach that works for one particular platform or type of content may be less effective (or even counterproductive) when applied elsewhere.
Proportionality and necessity. Regulators should take into
account the severity and prevalence of the harmful content in question, its status in law, and the efforts already underway to address the content.
If designed well, new frameworks for regulating harmful content can contribute to the internet's continued success by articulating clear ways for government, companies, and civil society to share responsibilities and work together.
Designed poorly, these efforts risk unintended consequences that might make people less safe online, stifle expression and slow innovation.
We hope today's white paper helps to stimulate further conversation around the regulation
of content online. It builds on a paper we published last September on data portability , and we plan on publishing similar papers on elections
and privacy in the coming months.
Mark Zuckerberg has declared that Facebook is going to stand up for free expression in spite of the fact it will piss off a lot of people.
He made the claim during a fiery appearance at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Utah on Friday. Zuckerberg told
the audience that Facebook had previously tried to resist moves that would be branded as too offensive - but says he now believes he is being asked to partake in excessive censorship:
Increasingly we're getting called
to censor a lot of different kinds of content that makes me really uncomfortable, he claimed. We're going to take down the content that's really harmful, but the line needs to be held at some point.
It kind of feels like the list
of things that you're not allowed to say socially keeps on growing, and I'm not really okay with that.
This is the new approach [free expression], and I think it's going to piss off a lot of people. But frankly the old approach
was pissing off a lot of people too, so let's try something different.