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I'm delighted that my  paper 'Algorithms patrolling content: where's the harm?' An empirical examination of Facebook shadow bans and their impact on users' has been published in the International Review of Computers, Law and Technology. 

 It has been a lot of hard work to get this to publication, but now that it's out, I hope it will inform academics, students and policy-makers about an obscure aspect of content moderation, that has a very real impact on individuals who are active on social media.  The ghosting experience of their Pages and accounts by shadow banning is not soft enforcement option but a significant interference with their freedom of expression.

It is making its way into law and policy with hardly a blink of the eye as policy-makers adopt the belief that regulating 'behaviour' is a good way to deal with harmful content. Yet, as I argue in the paper, suppressing  the dissemination of content on the basis of the account 'behaviour' can interfere with freedom of expression to almost the same extent as taking it down. It takes no account of whether the content is lawful. If there is no requirement to notify the user, then how are they even going to be able to appeal such a restriction on their rights? 

** Here is the Abstract. To read the full paper, please go the the journal website. **

"At the heart of this paper is an examination of the colloquial concept of a ‘shadow ban’. It reveals ways in which algorithms on the Facebook platform have the effect of suppressing content distribution without specifically targeting it for removal, and examines the consequential stifling of users’ speech. It reveals how the Facebook shadow ban is implemented by blocking dissemination of content in News Feed.

The decision-making criteria are based on ‘behaviour’, a term that relates to activity of the page that is identifiable through patterns in the data. It’s a technique that is rooted in computer security, and raises questions about the balance between security and freedom of expression.

The paper is situated in the field of responsibility of online platforms for content moderation. It studies the experience of the shadow ban on 20 UK-based Facebook Pages over the period from November 2019 to January 2021. The potential harm was evaluated using human rights standards and a comparative metric produced from Facebook Insights data. The empirical research is connected to recent legislative developments: the EU’s Digital Services Act and the UK’s Online Safety Bill. Its most salient contribution may be around ‘behaviour’ monitoring and its interpretation by legislators."

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May 2024: Iptegrity is being re-developed to upgrade the Joomla software.

Please bear with us until the new site is ready.

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.