A free and open internet creates immense social value by empowering individual voices, fostering new forms of thought and expression, expanding access to information, and promoting democratic ideals. However, the internet can also be used to engage in hateful activities, spread disinformation and chill free expression through targeted harassment, the encouragement of violence, and the use of threats and intimidation at a large scale. These activities have been proven to incite hate crimes, create an atmosphere of fear and distrust, endanger public health and safety, and chill free speech and civic participation.
Because the private sector largely owns and manages internet tools, these corporations have a responsibility to address the promulgation of hateful and harmful activities online. This document recommends measures for these corporations to implement to address such activities on their platforms. These recommendations are designed for any corporate entities that:
These recommendations are intended for corporate entities that perform such services for internet users, whether the services are provided directly to the public, through intermediaries or as an intermediary.
Throughout these recommended policies, we refer to these entities as “Internet Companies” or in the singular as “Internet Company”.
Throughout these recommendations we use the term “hateful activities” to describe activities that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, caste, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
We recognize that false information campaigns can be created and spread with an intent to incite, harass or otherwise harm an individual or group based on their identity. Internet Companies should address these tactics in their efforts to minimize hateful activities.
These recommendations reflect both a commitment to significantly decreasing hateful activities and other malignant efforts to sow division or violence online — and a commitment to an open internet. It is important that Internet Companies respect the internet’s free and open nature by ensuring that all users of online services are treated with respect; that Internet Companies do not pick winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas; and that Internet Companies protect the privacy and civil and human rights of all users. An appropriate balance reflects the reality that hateful activities threaten individuals, groups and democratic institutions.
Nothing in these recommendations is intended to allow for or support a Broadband Internet Access Service provider’s blocking, throttling or prioritizing any lawful content.
In addition, nothing in these core recommendations is intended to stop Internet Companies from providing end-to-end encrypted messaging services. Nor are these recommended policies intended to encourage Internet Companies to access or grant others access to the communications provided in such end-to-end encrypted chat services. However, Internet Companies providing end-to-end encryption should take these issues seriously, including by taking steps to consult with experts on possible mitigating measures.
These recommendations are based on the online tools and information that are available today. Policies and approaches will need to change as technologies and uses change. They will also need to shift in response to lessons learned by Internet Companies and researchers who evaluate data on hateful activities online.
Internet Companies should implement policies that reflect the summary recommendations described in the next seven sections. A full explanation of Internet Companies’ policies on hateful activities should be easily accessible to users in languages that users can understand. At a minimum such policies should be available to users in any language with which they use an Internet Company’s services. Similarly, the policies should be easily accessible to anyone with a disability who uses a service, consistent with how they use the service.
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*Note: Change the Terms uses the term “hateful activities” to mean activities that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.