On 16th April 2010 the GNI held a conference call attended by over 30 company and human rights organization representatives to discuss the human rights impacts of account deactivation and content removal.

Online services – such as email, social networking sites and blogs – are important sets of tools for citizen journalists, political campaigners, human rights advocates and the general public to express their points of view online and to organize themselves.

However, it is a common occurrence for accounts to be deactivated or content removed for various reasons, including misunderstanding of Terms of Service by users, stolen domains or hacking incidents, and illegitimate takedowns apparently resulting from organized “flagging” of content by other users.

Companies often use systems that rely on users to identify inappropriate content. For example, users can report content that violates terms of service (for obscenity for example), or copyright management schemes can automatically remove content that is digitally tagged. However, these systems are open to abuse by users if they are not accompanied by sufficient supervision and safeguards. In some cases governments may also request for content to be removed or for accounts to be deactivated.

For this reason there is a need for greater shared understanding of how account deactivation and content removal processes work and how these processes can be improved to reduce the risk of negative consequences for human rights. To address this need the GNI is establishing a network of companies and human rights organizations dedicated to sharing best practices, communicating potential incidents of concern and reducing the impact of account deactivation and content removal on human rights. To join this network, please contact [email protected] (subject line: Account deactivation network).