Has a social media platform deactivated your account or censored your content unjustly? Did they do so in a way that you feel has violated your right to free speech or assembly?
If so, Onlinecensorship.org is the place to file a report on what happened to you.
We will use the information you share with us in three main ways:
For more about the project’s motivations and plans, please see our Frequently Asked Questions page. The website as you see it right now is in testing phase. Based on the reports and feedback we have been receiveing since the site launch in June, we are working to revise the questions, make a number of other improvements, and add several more social media platforms.
Co-founder & Creative/Technical Lead
Ramzi Jaber, Visualizing Impact
Co-founder & Senior Advisor
Jillian C. York, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Rebecca MacKinnon, Global Voices Co-Founder & Ranking Digital Rights
Danny O’Brien, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Ryan Budish, Herdict.org
Oiwan Lam, InmediaHK and Global Voices
Ben Wagner, Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication
Books and papers:
Blogs and articles:
Q: Why are you doing this?
While “censorship” traditionally refers to the suppression of public speech by government, the Internet as we know it is no longer a truly public space. Most online platforms through which we choose to express ourselves - and upon which many of us increasingly depend - are privately owned and operated. With these social media platforms replacing a truly open ‘public sphere,’ we need to be asking some serious questions about the role of companies like Google (owner of Google Plus and YouTube), Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo (which owns Flickr) in defining what is or is not ‘acceptable’ public speech.
We believe that Onlinecensorship.org can play an important role in holding Internet companies publicly accountable for the way in which they exercise power over people’s digital lives.
Q: Who runs this website?
Onlinecensorship.org was co-founded by Ramzi Jaber and Jillian C. York in December of 2011, and is currently a partnership between several organizations.
Ramzi Jaber is the creative and technical lead. Ramzi is the cofounder of Visualizing Impact, a laboratory for innovation at the intersection of data science, technology, and design. VI creates impactful tools highlighting critical social issues around the world. Ramzi was also the lead curator of TEDxRamallah , an independently organized TED event. During the Spring of 2012, he was a Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. He is currently an Ashoka Fellow.
Jillian C. York serves as Senior Advisor. Jillian is currently Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of Global Voices. York has conducted extensive research, writing, and advocacy related to the impact of private intermediaries on citizens’ free speech rights.
Q: I am not very familiar with these issues. How can I learn more?
Q: Why are you only focusing on five social media platforms?
We have focused the Beta version of the site on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (owned by Yahoo), Google Plus, and YouTube (the last two both owned by Google) because these platforms exercise power over a large percentage of Internet users. In the next version of the site we plan to add several more platforms, based on our survey of members of the Global Voices international citizen media community as well as a range of other people who heavily depend on social media for their social, cultural, business, religious, or political activities.
Q: How can I see the questions you are asking without filing a report myself?
You can read them on this page.
Q: What are you doing with the data submitted by site users, and do you track submission sources in any way?
We will use the information submitted in several ways:
Q: Can submissions be falsified, or the site gamed? What are you doing to ensure verifiable and accurate data?
During our testing phase, we are manually reviewing all responses, deleting spam, and checking responses to verify whether they are real. During this test phase we may also contact people who have submitted valid e-mails along with their reports to verify accuracy of their data and to ask follow-up questions that will enable us to improve the site.
As the site is developed further we will be adding an automated anti-spam filter. As we review incoming data and identify specific problems around verification and gaming, we will be building both technical and human review solutions.
Q: What if I can’t access Facebook/Flickr/Twitter/Youtube/Google+ at all? All I get is an error message in my browser. Whose fault is that? What can I do about it?
If you can’t access the service at all, most likely that company is not trying to block you. Instead, the problem could be caused by one of any number of things. Perhaps the site is experiencing technical problems. Otherwise, it might be the result of filtering, which can come in many forms. Maybe it is being filtered by whoever controls Internet access at your office, school, cafe or wherever you are currently using the Internet because they don’t want you accessing certain sites or content. Or perhaps your Internet service provider (ISP) is blocking the service. In some countries, government authorities block certain social media services or instruct ISPs to do so. All of these are forms of filtering.
If you would like to file a report about the fact that you cannot access a social media website from your location, please visit our partner website, Herdict.org, which specializes in tracking Internet filtering around the world.
Q: What are your long-term plans for the site?
For the near-term we are working on a number of improvements in terms of the questions we ask of users, visualizations of the information we are receiving, and other features that will make the site easier to understand and use. We also plan to add several more platforms for users to file reports about (most likely Blogspot, Wordpress.com, Tumblr, Pinterest, Dailymotion, Vimeo, Instagram, and Orkut).
In future, if resources permit we hope to launch the site in Chinese, Farsi, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portugese, French, Russian, and Arabic, leveraging Global Voices’ international translation community and relationships with Internet freedom activists around the world. (Websites in those languages will include platforms specific to those languages and regions.)
Q: What about smaller, start-up companies?
While we have focused on a limited number of popular platforms, this phenomenon is not limited to large companies. Similar issues are experienced by users of smaller, startup social media platforms as well. We hope that, by documenting censorship on major platforms, we will be able to inform the public as well as the entrepreneur community about the dangers of policing online speech.
Q: What if I have a suggestion?
Please email us: censorship [at] onlinecensorship.org
Q: How can I support your work?
Please make a donation via Global Voices with a note that your contribution is for Onlinecensorship.org. Your financial support will help us to pay the developers and designers to launch a revised and improved website as soon as possible.
Step 1: Choose social network:
What type of content was deleted?
What type of content was deleted?