Tech

Digital Rights Coalition Slams Facebook, Google’s ‘Secret Algorithms’

A coalition of digital rights advocates and academic experts have formed to urge tech companies to implement new policies in an effort to become more transparent.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a San Fransisco-based nonprofit digital rights organization, along with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), New America’s Open Technology Institute, the ACLU of Northern California, and a group of academic experts from four universities want companies such as Facebook and Google to publicly report on posts taken down, according to an EFF press release Monday. The coalition has also urged social media companies to implement a better appeals process “to boost accountability.”

“Our goal is to ensure that enforcement of content guidelines is fair, transparent, proportional, and respectful of users’ rights,” Nate Cardozo, an EFF senior staff attorney, said in a statement.

The group published the “Santa Clara Principles,” a document outlining actions tech companies ought to take to “content removals, account suspensions, appeals, and other practices that impact free expression,” according to a CDT press release Monday.

“We hope that the Santa Clara principles can prompt broader discussions amongst advocacy groups, experts, and platforms across the globe and lead to more transparent and accountable content moderation,” Emma Llansó, director of CDT’s Free Expression Project, said in a statement.

The Santa Clara Principles document advocates that social media companies release the number of posts removed and accounts suspended, the notice to users about content removals and account suspensions, and the appeals for users impacted by content removals or account suspensions.

The coalition suggests these companies release that information quarterly in an “openly licensed, machine-readable format.”

EFF also called out social media giants’ failed attempts to censor so-called “hate speech.”

“In the aftermath of violent protests in Charlottesville and elsewhere, social media platforms have faced increased calls to police content, shut down more accounts and delete more posts. But in their quest to remove perceived hate speech, they have all too often wrongly removed perfectly legal and valuable speech,” EFF’s press release said. “The processes used by tech companies are tremendously opaque. When speech is being censored by secret algorithms, without meaningful explanation, due process, or disclosure, no one wins.”

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