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The EFF takes aim at online speech cut down by inconstantly applied “terms of service”

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched a new project, TOSsed Out, dedicated to building a database documenting the way social media platforms remove posts and block accounts.

TOSsed Out builds on the digital rights group’s project, with the goal of revealing and exposing the shortcomings behind online moderation and censorship processes.

EFF noted that The White House recently launched a tool for reporting cases of perceived anti-conservative bias in social media – which has been a big talking point of US President Donald Trump. But the organization wants to cover unfair and harmful bans and deletions in general, with a special focus on those groups that are already at a disadvantage and marginalized, and show how these decisions negatively impact the lives of people.

EFF said that it has been monitoring takedowns and deactivations on the web for many years, and that the situation around this issue deteriorated in 2018, when social media platforms came under increasing pressure both from the authorities and the public to remove and censor content, and as automated tools started to be thrown in the mix.

The group believes that Terms of Service (ToS) and other means of moderation are often used inconsistently and without proper consideration, and wants the new project to highlight the consequences, with the hope of improving the practice.

EFF is urging companies behind the social platforms to approach moderation, banning of accounts and deletion of content by relying on the Santa Clara Principles, designed precisely for this purpose. These principles call for transparency through publishing the number of affected posts and accounts, informing the user about the reasons behind these decisions, and allowing them to the right to appeal.

The digital rights organization also makes a case of the internet being a vitally important and irreplaceable space for expression and communication for many people, and that in this context, censoring their speech can have serious consequences.

Among the latest entries added to the TOSsed Out project is war crimes documentation deleted by an automated tool, a suspended Beto O’Rourke parody account, and the results of Tumblr’s ban on adult content.

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