It’s not just gamers recognizing that the concrete law of censorship is weighing heavy on the social interactions and information access we have in today’s inter-connected society. The growth of the internet — and the historical value of accessing cultural data we never would have had access to just two decades ago — has opened a gateway for a new kind of threat to information freedom: online censorship.
Social outrage propagated by media click-bait and the rising presence of journalists infiltrating our everyday life with outrage culture has caused a serious decline in the average user’s ability to access information freely and factually. This has become so very, very apparent when you look at how things get reported and what gets censored, blocked, prohibited and banned from all sorts of social media platforms, including those that service gamer culture.
The website OnlineCensorship.org is a platform that opens up the average, everyday user to the ability to find out what’s being censored on some of their favorite platforms and why. Think of it as an independent version of Reddit’s /r/Undelete, which shows a bunch of posts and submissions on the giant social media platform that have been censored or deleted, some of which are done because of the moderator’s political bias or sociopolitical agendas.
Golden Frog recently wrote about the opening of Online Censorship as an initiative by the EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF is the same group who worked closely with a grassroots crowd-funding campaign back in November of 2014 to remove DMCAs against abandonware. The law was recently changed regarding copyrighted abandonware in the video game industry as recent as October, 2015. Now gamers can utilize tools to bypass DRM-laden abandonware if the copyright holder no longer offers the tools to play a game properly.
Nevertheless, the article on Golden Frog makes it known that the Online Censorship organization wants to put transparency back into the hands of users and expose the reasons of banned content to the rest of the world, this way everyone can see if it’s actually worth having banned or censored…
“Users on the site can submit their own reports of content deletions, learn how to appeal content removals on various sites and read case studies and other reports on content restrictions. The data collected aims to provide insight into trends around content deletions and context for these deletions, as well as to spread awareness in hopes of making companies more accountable.”
The process is pretty simple, as it walks users through the step by step submission of a censored piece of content. Users will use the Submit Report button and select from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google+, Instagram or YouTube. Sadly, no support for N4G, Daily Motion, or Reddit.
The whole point is to raise public awareness of regulated speech and content online. Not every case will result in the content being unbanned or the user account being unsuspended, but the whole point is that any submissions of censorship can be used in future analytical reports, as noted on the site…
“Even if you choose not to submit your identifying information, the data you provide will help us to gain a fuller picture of how companies are enforcing their terms of service to regulate content online. We plan to provide reports and visualizations once we have a sufficient pool of data. Some submissions may be integrated into case studies or analyses when we notice particular trends (but any identifiable data will only be used with your permission, of course).”
This should prove useful, especially in situations where a platform like Reddit goes on a censorship sprees… similar to what happened with #GamerGate back in August of 2014; or all the shadowbans and censorship banhammers that dropped during the Ellen Pao fiasco during the summer of 2015, as reported by Business Insider.
You can follow the organization on Twitter at @Censored or visit the official Online Censorship website to learn more about what they do and how they catalog information to help today’s tech savvy society become more aware of certain kinds of censorship that can drastically alter the course of regional or global cultures.