Social media giants bear responsibility to protect user rights, says ImpACT to HRC

Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter are responsible for protecting and maintaining the rights of their users, ImpACT International and IRDG said in a joint oral statement at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held in Geneva on Wednesday.

The two organizations warned that nations impose their political agendas in return for permission to sell and advertise to their citizens. In countries where governments abuse their minority populations, the companies become subject to local laws and practices that violate users’ privacy and restrict the spread of ideas.  

"In 2017, a report by the Israeli Ministry of Justice said its cyber unit documented 2,241 cases of ‘offensive’ online content and succeeded in getting 70 per cent of it removed. In contrast, violent threats and other harassment of Palestinians on Israeli social media barely attract attention from either Facebook or the Israeli government” testified Lara Hamidi, researcher for ImpACT International. "In 2015, economist Nasser bin Ghaith was arrested for his critical tweets in the UAE, then taken to a undisclosed location where he was denied access to his lawyer and medical treatment. He was sentenced to 10 years and is still serving today"

The joint statement emphasized that companies should consider human rights equally with profits, and should not accept violence and suppression of citizen speech. Instead, they should allow users to communicate freely.

ImpACT International and IRDG called on the UNHRC to pressure countries that host social media companies to comply with a code of ethics that permits freedom of speech regardless of location, allowing protection of users. They also recommended that companies locate their headquarters in countries with governments that protect the free expression of their citizens.

 

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