Your content has been removed – Private regulation and its impact on freedom of expression
The prevailing approach on freedom of expression online has focused on the attempts of the State or private entities to interfere in the dissemination of contents within internet. This way, rejecting filtering and blocking orders or requesting a judicial order to take down content have proven to be remarkable steps in the fight for freedom of expression. The goal was to protect platforms and search engines from external behaviors that could motivate them to remove content.
Although this matter still is greatly important, there has emerged, in parallel, a phenomenon that also poses plenty of challenges for online freedom of expression: the removal of content by intermediaries, not due to external pressure, but on their own initiative. By applying their internal rules, the main social network and search engine companies have turned into institutions which exercise effective control over online content. Considering that the internet has been the subject of continuous public debate, it is necessary to ensure that private sector policies respect fundamental rights. This report strives to justify, from a legal standpoint, the need for regulations based on human rights when it comes to the private governance of speech on the internet.