Transparency Reporting Toolkit: Content Takedown Reporting

Best practice guide | Submission/proposal/advocacy/recommendation


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Published date: October 25, 2018

Author: Spandana Singh, Kevin Bankston

Subject tag: Content moderation | Data Access

As the internet has become an increasingly important tool for free expression around the world, major platforms and networks that carry that expression have assumed the role of speech gatekeepers, often removing or blocking users’ content for various legal or policy reasons. Currently, some internet and telecommunications companies disclose some data on how much content they are removing and why in their transparency reports. However, this reporting varies significantly from company to company, and often lacks the clarity and granularity required to provide meaningful accountability for the companies themselves or the various government and private parties demanding content takedowns.

This toolkit surveys how 35 global internet and telecommunications companies report on six categories of content takedowns and offers a set of guiding best practices on how their reporting can be improved going forward, with a focus on making them clearer, more detailed, and more standardized across companies. It is the latest in a series of toolkits that started in 2016 when OTI and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society released the first Transparency Reporting Toolkit, which focused on reporting about government demands for user data.

Best practice recommendations include: issuing regular reports, issuing reports specific to the type of demand, reporting on types of demands using specific numbers, breaking down demands by country, reporting on categories of objectionable content targted by demands, reporting on products targeted by demands, reporting on specific specific government agencies that submitted demands, specifying which laws pertain to specific demands, reporting on the number of accounts and items impacted by demands, reporting on how the company responded to demands.
[This entry was sourced with minor edits from the Carnegie Endowment’s Partnership for Countering Influence Operations and its baseline datasets initiative. You can find more information here:]