Facebook facing lawsuit over “private censorship” issues

Following concerns over freedom of speech, a Polish NGO has filed a lawsuit against social media giant Facebook over “private censorship” issues.

This follows fan pages of the Civil Society Drug Policy Initiative (SIN) being removed on Facebook, and its account being removed from Instagram earlier in the year.

SIN says that their support groups provide advice and support to people “who are very active on social media” about the “harmful effects of psychoactive substances.”It has been backed by the UN, the Red Cross, and the EU.

Facebook claims that the support group violated Facebook’s standards. However, SIN argues that removing it breaches the group’s freedom of speech rights. It has also damaged its reputation.

In a statement, SIN said: “By blocking our communication channels, Facebook made it difficult for us to help people who need it the most. It also undermined our reputation by suggesting that we do something illegal”, and that it plans “to fight to defend the rights of users whose freedom of expression was unduly restricted by arbitrary banning by the tech giant”.

In the last year, the changes to Facebook’s advertising policies has sparked complaints about users’ freedom of speech, and the discriminatory approach to its ads framework.

Dorota Głowacka, a lawyer at the Panoptykon Foundation said: “The strategic goal of our court case is to challenge online platforms and incentivise them to move away from their current opaque and arbitrary methods of content moderation and to introduce measures which will better protect our freedom of speech.”

“The user has to be informed why his or her content was blocked and be able to present arguments in his or her defence. Final decisions of platforms [on content removals] should be subject to independent scrutiny by the courts. Our case is about Facebook but we hope it will  set standards that will also influence policies of other platforms.”

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