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ACLU: Social Media Companies Suffer Transparency Deficit

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Social media companies are being urged to show "real transparency" by explaining all content removals, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said this week.

ACLU technology and civil liberties attorney Matt Cagle released a statement Tuesday stressing the societal importance of social media companies disclosing information about all removals of content due to violations of the company's rules.

In Twitter's most recent transparency report, released last month, the company chose to disclose the number of formal legal demands as well as requests by government officials and law enforcement to remove content, but it didn't report information regarding non-legal requests to remove content from their platform.

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On behalf of the ACLU of Northern California, Cagle wrote:

"Platforms like Twitter maintain a powerful influence over user speech and whether it is amplified or suppressed. Comprehensive reporting and accountability for all content removals can help catch mistakes and inform the conversation about how to meaningfully address serious issues like abuse or extremism online while protecting free speech. The time has come for the social networks to move this conversation forward by releasing useful information about all content removals." 

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For tech companies interested in improving their transparency, the ACLU released a new guide to help them protect the free expression, and privacy, of their users.

The ACLU urged companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, to release information about the content it takes down for violating its terms of service in response to informal demands.

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Social networks, Cagle adds, "could do a lot more to provide adequate due process for users seeking to appeal these removals."

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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