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The dilemma of deactivation

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What happens to your data when you deactivate a social media account? Do you know? Do you trust the providers to know?

The September 2011 Joint Report from The Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Democracy and Technology titled, “Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding Principles and Practices for Companies and Users”, represents a substantial contribution to the growing body of scholarship on appropriate behavior by social media service providers.

The Report identifies a set of principles and practices for companies that host, and users who create, user-generated content. It lays out some of the steps that platform providers can take to reduce violations of their terms of service, minimize the harm to users whose content is removed or whose accounts are deactivated, and to help users understand their own responsibilities with respect to the content they create.

The Report’s Guiding Principles are impressive because they are articulated at a high level of generality while at the same time the accompanying narrative puts the principles into appropriate context and, simultaneously, offers ways, largely through the use of examples, on how the principles can be operationalized. The Guiding Principles apply both directly, and by analogy, to social media platforms that permit user generated content that might be sponsored by FDA-regulated medical product companies.

The pharmaceutical and allied industries would do well to consider this Report as an exemplar for the development of guiding principles that might be applied to social media platforms that it maintains, operates, and/or sponsors.

Get the report online at the CDT.org website (PDF).

Read a summary of the report from the CDT.

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Arnie Friede

Arnie is an occasional contributor to the blog who is Principal at Arnold I. Friede & Associates.

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