Home Social networking Facebook-Parent Meta to ‘Assess Feasibility’ of Human Rights Review of Practices in Ethiopia

Facebook-Parent Meta to ‘Assess Feasibility’ of Human Rights Review of Practices in Ethiopia


Facebook owner Meta Platforms said on Thursday it would “assess the feasibility” of commissioning an independent human rights review of its work in Ethiopia, after its oversight board recommended a review of how Facebook and Instagram have been used to spread content that increases the risk of violence there.

The council, set up by the company to respond to criticism of its handling of problematic material, makes binding decisions on a small number of difficult content moderation cases and provides non-binding policy recommendations.

Meta has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators over user safety and its handling of abuse on its platforms around the world, particularly after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents that showed the company’s difficulties in controlling content in countries where such talk was most likely to cause harm, including Ethiopia.

Thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced during a year-long conflict between the Ethiopian government and rebel forces in the northern Tigray region.

The social media giant said it had ‘invested significant resources in Ethiopia to identify and remove potentially harmful content’, as part of its response to December board recommendations on a case involving content posted in the country. .

Last month, the oversight board upheld Meta’s initial decision to remove a post alleging the involvement of ethnic Tigrayan civilians in atrocities in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Because Meta had restored the post after the user appealed to the board, the company had to remove the content again.

On Thursday, Meta said that while he deleted the post, he disagreed with the board’s reasoning that it should have been deleted because it was an “unverified rumour” that greatly increased the risk of imminent violence. He said it would impose “a journalistic publishing standard on people”.

A spokesperson for the oversight board said in a statement, “Meta’s existing policies prohibit rumors that contribute to impending violence that cannot be debunked in a meaningful time, and the board has made recommendations to ensure that these policies are effectively applied in conflict situations.”

“Rumours alleging that an ethnic group is complicit in atrocities, as found in this case, have the potential to cause serious harm to people,” they said.

The council had recommended that Meta commission a human rights due diligence assessment, to be completed in six months, which should include a review of Meta’s language capabilities in Ethiopia and a review of measures taken to prevent the use misuse of his services in the country.

However, the company said that not all elements of this recommendation “may be feasible in terms of timing, data science, or approach.” He said he would continue his human rights due diligence and should find out whether he could act on the board’s recommendation in the coming months.

Previous Reuters reports on Myanmar and other countries have investigated Facebook’s difficulty in monitoring content across the world in different languages. In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled violence in Myanmar.

Meta, which said it was too slow to stop misinformation and hate in Myanmar, said the company now has native speakers around the world reviewing content in more than 70 languages ​​who are working to stop abuse. abuse on its platforms in places where there is an increased risk of conflict and violence.

The council also recommended that Meta rewrite its safety value statement to reflect that online speech can pose a risk to people’s physical safety and their right to life. The company said it would make changes to this value, as part of a partial implementation of the recommendation.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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