Facebook's New Human Rights Policy

Policy Making Apr 03, 2021

Often criticized for its role in human rights abuses, Facebook, the million-dollar social media app, is all set to introduce a new corporate human rights policy. It will cover all of the social network and also a fund to assist human rights defenders. The new policy will define human rights standards that Facebook will endeavour to respect. These will be made taking reference from United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

"It sets out how we will apply these standards to our apps and products, policies, programming, and overall approach to our business. We will report our most critical human rights issues, like risks to freedom of expression, to our Board of Directors," said Miranda Sissons, Director of Human Rights on Wednesday. Facebook also aims at releasing an annual report of how it is addressing human rights concerning its products, policies and business practices.

Facebook also intends to create funds for offline assistance of defenders of human rights. “We'll also build on our existing work to protect defenders' accounts — efforts that include combating malicious actors who are targeting them, protecting them from incorrect content removals and offering advanced security options," the company said. Sissons says it will continue to support digital security efforts like “thwarting unauthorized access” to activists’ accounts, as well.

This policy is more of a framework for how the company plans to play issues related to human rights in future and possibly another way to hold the company accountable if it fails. The company is not changing any of its current community standards, privacy policies or code of conduct. The app also banned accounts from the military junta after the Myanmar coup. A decision against anti-muslim hate speech is also taken.
However, the delay is inexcusable. Also, it does not follow Santa Clara principles which require Facebook to issue a notice to a user whose content is removed and provide them with a meaningful chance to appeal the removal. Facebook also does not continuously report internet blackouts. According to facebook’s transparency reporting page, the last internet shutdown in India was on 28th June 2020. However, India experienced an internet blackout after the farmers protest on independence day in 2021. Moreover, the policy does not provide a rights audit in India. However, the company could have added many other terms over the existing ones as the UNGPs seem to be insufficient for a large platform like Facebook.

This article has been written by Ritu Katkar for The Paradigm

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