Facebook: Stop Censoring Inmates!

The prison system in South Carolina sets accessing Facebook as an offense on par with murder, rape, rioting, escape and hostage-taking. Inmates are placed in solitary confinement simply for accessing Facebook. Facebook is also complicit in the censorship of inmates, who may be using Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, handle finances, organize legal defense campaigns, or alert the public to unconstitutional prison conditions.

Please sign the petition to tell Facebook to stop censoring inmates!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found that during the last 3 years, South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) officials have brought over 400 disciplinary cases for using Facebook or other social networks. The penalties for inmates are unnecessarily harsh, and include solitary confinement or deprivation of privileges like visitation from friends and family and phone access. Some inmates were sentenced to 10 years in "disciplinary detention," while 40 inmates received over 2 years in solitary confinement, and at least one was sentenced to over 37 years in isolation.

In addition, Facebook has processed hundreds of requests to remove inmates' profiles, making Facebook complicit in the censorship of inmates. Facebook has a form on its site where prison officials can request Facebook remove an inmate's profile, called “Inmate Account Takedown Request." A corrections officer need only give the inmate’s name, profile link, and the crime for which they’re imprisoned (but not the alleged violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service) to get the inmate’s profile removed.

Facebook says it only removes inmate pages when they violate the ToS, like by giving out their password or using an alias, but EFF gathered email evidence that Facebook removes these profiles even when no ToS violation occurred.

Facebook also keeps no record of officers' requests to remove a profile. As EFF states, this lack of transparency is unacceptable considering government censorship is involved.

SCDC officers often log into inmates' accounts or create fake profiles to trick them. This is a clear violation of Facebook's ToS and is hypocritical, considering violation of ToS is exactly the reason prison officials request inmates' profiles be removed. Yet, SCDC is allowed to have its own public Facebook page where it paints the corrections facility in a positive light.

Disallowing inmates internet access does not help rehabilitate them. Rather, it cloaks prisons in secrecy and affords them the ability to hide human rights violations.

Please sign the petition to tell Facebook to stop censoring inmates!

We the undersigned request Facebook take steps to stop censoring inmates and to foster transparency when dealing with corrections officials.

Facebook, please follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation's guidelines and:

1. Stop censoring inmates without evaluating whether a serious ToS violation occurred.

2. Remove the inmate takedown feature, or create a public record each time a prison official files a takedown request and Facebook complies.

3. Revise Facebook's transparency report to include how many takedown requests you receive, who sent the request and how you responded.

4. Hold law enforcement agencies accountable for abusing your ToS.

Thank you.

Update #14 years ago
Partial victory! Facebook has reformed its inmate account takedown process in a positive way, reports EFF. It's thanks to your signatures that this change was made! Still, FB won't release stats on how many takedown requests it receives, so please continue to sign & share to keep the pressure up.
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