re:publica XI - Jillian C. York

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Jillian C. York's presentation at re:publica XI, "Policing Content in the Quasi-Public Sphere."

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  • How many people in this room have a Facebook account? Twitter? A blog hosted on Blogspot? We think of these spaces as the public sphere; we write about politics, we share our personal thoughts. But all of these spaces are owned by private companies. These companies have their own rules, their own standards. They can do what they want. I started writing this paper about a year ago; at the time, this issue received very little attention. Cut to 2011, and the recent uprisings across the Arab world have placed this issue square in the public eye. From the recent call on Facebook for a 3 rd Palestinian intifada to the takedown on Flickr of photos of security forces, new questions are being raised about the “quasi-public sphere” that we now are all a part of.
  • Though these issues are by no means exclusive, my paper looked at these five platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Blogspot, and YouTube. Each company takes a different approach to policing content, but most follow a similar premise: that community policing is the only scaleable way to manage content. When users come across content they believe to be in violation of a site's terms of service, they can report it as such. With thousands of users, this system makes sense. The problem is that these systems can be easily misused and abused.
  • Facebook is a good example for a couple of reasons: -it's been in the news a lot lately -its terms of service are questionable in a number of ways For example, Facebook – real name policy Human rights implications (anonymity, changing use of platform)
  • Facebook's strict policy states that users must sign up with their real name. If they use more than one name, they can fill out an alternate name in their account settings.
  • Michael Anti is a prominent Chinese journalist, blogger, and human rights activist whose account was removed. Why? Because he wasn't using his Chinese name. How did Facebook know? Likely reporting. They confirmed by asking Anti to send in a copy of his government-issued identification.
  • And yet, when you search “Santa Claus”, you find many... Pseudonymity – disproportionate systems for finding people using them. Facebook's reporting mechanism is skewed against the famous, the hated, and activists.
  • An example from Tunisia: Sayeb Sala7 (Tunisian slang for “leave the Internet alone”) Page went down – Facebook claimed it was too “generic” a name (pizza). Behind the scenes help got it back up.
  • In November 2010, Facebook took down a popular page (at the time, a few hundred thousand members), claiming that its administrator was using a pseudonym. Working behind the scenes, activists helped reinstate the page, but it required a change of administrator. That page was the “We Are All Khaled Said” page you've heard so much about in the news; Wael Ghonim, the Google executive deemed a hero of Egypt's revolution, was the anonymous administrator.
  • Moving on to Flickr – this is a positive story, of a company changing its guidelines to suit the needs of its customers. That's an issue: companies' rules need to evolve with the way users use the systems. 2007 – Maarten Dors' “The Romanian Way”; early case; boy smoking cigarette, Flickr policies.
  • The result was a set of robust community guidelines (explain them)
  • Read a couple of examples. Still, they can be vague.
  • Hossam Hamalawy (@3arabawy) uploaded images captured from Amn El Dawla, Egypt's security forces building. He explicitly noted where the photos were taken from. The photos were removed. Pro account issue, issue of content not staying up (mention Facebook similarities) Also: not copyright, but images must be own.
  • Tunisia – graphic content (kids smoking) – show vid if possible
  • Resulting policy: talk about tagging, context, unspoken policies
  • re:publica XI - Jillian C. York

    1. 16. <ul><li>Build human rights into your site </li></ul><ul><li>Better community guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Is community policing the answer? </li></ul><ul><li>Robust processes for users </li></ul>
    2. 17. <ul>Here’s how you can find me: @jilliancyork </ul><ul>[email_address] http://jilliancyork.com </ul><ul>(I keep it simple.) </ul>
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