Miranda Sissons, Director of Human Rights Policy at Meta, said that they want their services to be a space that allows people to express themselves freely and safely around the world. “That’s why we have clear rules against terrorism, hate speech, and violence incitement.”
“We also have institutional human rights policies and a dedicated human rights team – helping us manage human rights risks, and better understand how our products and technologies impact different countries and societies,” she added.
“As part of our commitment to help provide an environment in which people can express themselves freely and safely, and upon the recommendation of the Supervisory Board in September 2021, we have asked Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), an independent organization with expertise in human rights, to undertake exercise due diligence on the impact of our policies and operations in Israel and Palestine during May 2021 events, including examining whether these policies and processes were applied impartially.”
As BSR acknowledges in its report, the May 2021 events highlighted long-term industry-wide challenges around content moderation in conflict-affected areas, and the need to protect freedom of expression while reducing the risk of online services being used to spread hate and incite violence. The report also highlights how these issues are increasingly difficult to manage due to the complex circumstances surrounding the conflict, including its social and historical contexts, various rapidly evolving violent events, and the actions and activities of terrorist organizations.
Despite these complexities, the BSR has identified a number of areas of “good practice” in Meta response. Meta’s efforts to prioritize measures to reduce the risk of using the platform to encourage violence or harm included creating a dedicated operations centre to respond to interactions across our apps in real time.
This centre was staffed by teams of experts, including regional experts and native Arabic and Hebrew speakers, who worked to remove content that violated our policies, while also making sure that it addressed access errors as soon as we became aware of them.
Meta efforts have also included the removal of content that is proportionate and consistent with international human rights standards.
In addition to these areas of good practice, BSR concluded that different perspectives, nationalities, ethnicities, and religions were well represented in the teams working on this matter at META. They found no evidence of intentional bias on any of these grounds among any of these employees. Nor did they find any evidence that, by developing or implementing any of Meta policies, it sought to benefit or harm any particular community.
However, BSR has raised significant concerns about non-enforcement of content, including incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews on Meta platforms, and specific cases in which they consider that our policies and our operations have had an unintended impact on Palestinian and Arab communities – primarily on their freedom of expression.
The BSR has made 21 specific recommendations as a result of its due diligence, covering areas related to Meta policies, how these policies are implemented, and the affiliated platforms’ efforts to provide transparency to its users.
The BSR recommended a review of our policies towards violence incitement and dangerous individuals and organizations – which is our set of rules that prohibit groups such as terrorists, hate organizations, and criminal organizations on Facebook and Instagram, in accordance with Meta policies that advertise a violent mission or engage in violence. Meta evaluates these entities based on their online and on-the-ground behaviour
Reality – and most importantly its relationship to violence. Meta has committed to implementing these recommendations, including launching a review of these two policy areas to examine how we deal with political dialogue for proscribed groups, and how we can do more to counter content that glorifies violence. As part of this comprehensive review, Meta will consult widely with a wide range of experts, academics and stakeholders – not only in the region, but around the world.
The BSR also recommended that Meta categorizes its sanctions regime when people violate the policies. Meta has committed to evaluating the feasibility of this particular recommendation, but it has already begun work to make this system more simple, transparent, and convenient.