Social media must clamp down on hate speech, UN rights boss says

It was now making progress, with better technology to identify hate speech and improved reporting tools. (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 August 2018
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Social media must clamp down on hate speech, UN rights boss says

  • Facebook had allowed its platform to be used to incite violence against Rohingya
  • Myanmar military officials from the social media website and an Instagram account to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation” after reviewing the content

GENEVA: Social media, including Facebook , must proactively block content inciting hatred and prevent online campaigns which target minorities, such as those undertaken in Myanmar, the United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday.
Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was speaking after UN experts accused Myanmar generals of “genocidal intent” and said Facebook had allowed its platform to be used to incite violence against Rohingya.
Facebook said on Monday it was removing several Myanmar military officials from the social media website and an Instagram account to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation” after reviewing the content.
Zeid, whose spokesman said he has met with major tech companies in Silicon Valley, including Facebook and Google, in recent months, was speaking to a news conference before his four-year term ends on Aug. 31.
Zeid said he didn’t feel Facebook took the issue seriously at first but that the company’s attitude began to change after Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told a Geneva press conference in March that Facebook was being used in the country to spread hate speech.
“But it shouldn’t be because the press or the human rights community highlights the problem for them then suddenly to respond. They should be aware of it ahead of time,” he said.
“So I don’t think they should wait until the crisis begins. They should be thinking proactively about what steps they will take to mitigate that,” he added.
Facebook said on Monday that while it was too slow to act in the case of Myanmar, it was now making progress, with better technology to identify hate speech and improved reporting tools.
However, Zeid said there was a danger that social media could be over-regulated in a way that breaches human rights law including the right to freedom of expression.
Tech giants should “keep the broadest space available and open to the exercise of freedom of expression,” relying on international human rights law for regulation, he said.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google’s search engine of promoting negative news articles and hiding “fair media” coverage of him, vowing to address the situation without providing evidence or giving details of action he might take.
Trump’s attack against the Alphabet Inc. unit follows a string of grievances against technology companies, including Twitter Inc. and Facebook, which he has accused of silencing conservative voices.


Vietnamese blogger who vanished in Thailand jailed in Hanoi

Updated 21 March 2019
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Vietnamese blogger who vanished in Thailand jailed in Hanoi

  • Truong Duy Nhat fled to Thailand in January and applied for refugee status with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • His employer and family lost contact with him soon after
HANOI: A Vietnamese blogger who vanished in Thailand earlier this year is being held in a Hanoi prison, his friend and wife confirmed Thursday.
Truong Duy Nhat wrote weekly posts about politics and current affairs for Radio Free Asia (RFA) and last posted about the prospects for change in Vietnam in light of major anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela.
All independent media is banned in Vietnam and bloggers, activists and rights lawyers are routinely jailed. The one-party state has seen an uptick of arrests under a hard-line leadership in charge since 2016, with nearly 60 put behind bars last year according to an AFP tally.
Nhat, 55, fled to Thailand in January and applied for refugee status with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, according to RFA.
His employer and family lost contact with him soon after and he has not been heard from since. The UN said does not comment on individual cases.
Nhat’s friend Pham Xuan Nguyen said he visited Hanoi’s T-16 jail on Wednesday and received confirmation Nhat was being held there.
“I took Nhat’s wife to the jail yesterday. I saw the book the jail gave to her to register future visits,” he said Thursday.
“Inside the book, the date of his arrest was written January, 28 2019 ... it said that he was transferred to the jail the same day,” he said, adding that they did not see Nhat.
The blogger’s wife Cao Thi Xuan Phuong confirmed the account to AFP, declining to comment further.
His daughter Truong Thuc Doan, who lives in Canada, said she believes he was taken from Thailand against his will.
“It’s clear that my father did not voluntarily go back to Vietnam,” she told RFA.
The circumstances of Nhat’s return have not been confirmed by Hanoi and he has not yet been formally charged.
This is Nhat’s second prison stint. He was jailed for two years in 2014 for “abusing democratic freedoms” after writing blogs critical of Vietnam’s communist leadership.
Hanoi has in the past forcibly returned corruption suspects, including a former state oil executive kidnapped by Vietnamese security agents from a Berlin park in 2017.
Last year a fugitive spy was sent back from Singapore to face trial for divulging state secrets.