We already know that Facebook and other social networks tailor our feeds based on what is likely to interest us instead of showing us everything our friends post by default. But what else aren’t they showing us? A new site from the Electronic Frontier Foundation aims to tell us all about the types of content social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are reluctant to let us see.
OnlineCensorship.org aims to make content deletions on social networks more transparent by receiving and publicizing user-contributed stories of censorship. The site is financed by a 2014 Knight News Challenge awardd.
Content restrictions on social networks are certainly nothing new. Most social networks have prohibitions against posting things such as pirated material, pornography, or hate speech. You’ve probably also heard about more specific restrictions such as Facebook’s former prohibition of breastfeeding images, no female nipples on Instagram, or Twitter’s crackdown on tweeting other people’s jokes as your own.
The world’s largest social network also recently started deleting mentions of the China-based social network Tsu.co calling it spam, according to The Huffington Post. Heck, Boing Boing couldn’t even mention the Chinese site in its own story without it getting pulled off Facebook.
Apparently there’s a whole lot more where that came from and EFF’s new site aims to let us know all about it. Currently, the site has stories that have already been publicized elsewhere such as HappyAddis, the LGBT activist from Ethiopa who lost his Facebook account under the company’s real name policy, and Twitter’s aversion to advertising slightly edgy safe sex initiatives.
Why this matters: Most people use social networks as a crucial method of communications with friends, family, and even like-minded political thinkers. Thus how we are able to speak and interact on those sites is crucially important. Censorship should be kept to a minimum, but these are sites run by private companies that have every right to keep content they find undesirable off their networks. It’s a tough line to walk and the EFF’s new site should help point out some of the worst decisions that social networks make—and how they can improve.