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As an organisation that has worked at the intersections of human rights and technology for nearly three decades, APC welcomes this public consultation on the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation, as it is timely and integral to our work. Censorship is increasingly being implemented by private actors, with little transparency or accountability, and disproportionately impacts groups and individuals who face discrimination in society – groups and individuals who look to social media platforms to amplify their voices, form associations, and organise for change. The current pandemic has raised challenges for content moderation. While we recognise that these are extraordinary times, human rights laws and principles should be the default standards guiding companies’ content moderation policies and procedures.

In general, the number of platforms releasing transparency reports and the details contained in those reports has increased in recent years. Companies, however, still need to do more to comply with their responsibility to ensure that their policies for restricting content are being applied in a non-discriminatory and equitable manner. Platforms report very little about when they remove content or restrict users’ accounts for violating their terms of service (ToS), and often fail to provide adequate notice: users are not adequately informed about the rules they have violated. Moreover, companies enter into agreements with states to operate locally, and the terms of these agreements, which have implications for content regulation, are often completely unknown.

We encourage the Principles to urge companies to improve reporting mechanisms following these criteria:

  • Legitimacy: The mechanism is viewed as trustworthy and is accountable to those who use it.

  • Accessibility: The mechanism is easily located, used and understood.

  • Predictability: There is a clear and open procedure with indicative time frames, clarity of process and means of monitoring implementation.

  • Equitable: It provides sufficient information and advice to enable individuals to engage with the mechanism on a fair and informed basis.

  • Transparency: Individuals are kept informed about the progress of their matter.

  • Human rights-respecting: The outcomes and remedies accord with internationally recognised human rights standards.

  • Source of continuous learning: It enables the platform to draw on experiences to identify improvements for the mechanism and to prevent future grievances

Download the full APC submission to the consultation here.