Facebook definition of terrorism helps states mute dissent, says UN expert

Prof. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, is seen at the UN Security Council chamber. (Twitter photo)
Updated 03 September 2018
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Facebook definition of terrorism helps states mute dissent, says UN expert

  • Facebook’s policy did not take account of rebel armed groups that comply with international humanitarian law, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin says
  • Social media firms are already under UN scrutiny for allowing users to incite hatred and target minorities

GENEVA: A UN human rights expert urged Facebook on Monday to narrow its “sweeping” definition of terrorism to stop governments arbitrarily blocking legitimate opposition groups and dissenting voices.
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin wrote to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg saying Facebook wrongly treats all non-state groups that use violence in pursuit of any goals as terrorist entities.
“The use of such a sweeping definition is particularly worrying in light of a number of governments seeking to stigmatize diverse forms of dissent and opposition (whether peaceful or violent) as terrorism,” wrote Ní Aoláin, UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism.
Facebook’s policy did not take account of rebel armed groups that comply with international humanitarian law, the letter said. She did not give examples, but governments facing armed opposition, such as in Syria, frequently label all their opponents as terrorists, even if other countries do not agree.
A Facebook spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.
Ní Aoláin commended “the important role Facebook plays in offsetting terrorist activity online,” but said it must not unduly interfere in the human rights of its users, and should ensure there is a way to challenge wrong decisions.
Overly broad and imprecise definitions of terrorism may lead to “discriminatory implementation, over-censoring and arbitrary denial of access to and use of Facebook’s services,” wrote Ní Aoláin, a UN Human Rights Council independent expert.
“Moreover, it is unclear how Facebook determines when a person belongs to a particular group and whether the respective group or person are given the opportunity to meaningfully challenge such determination.”
Facebook and other social media firms are increasingly involved in regulation that used to be done by states, and are under pressure from governments to police content disseminated by users, Ní Aoláin said.
Social media firms are already under UN scrutiny for allowing users to incite hatred and target minorities.
Last week, former UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said Facebook had allowed its platform to be used to incite violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, where UN experts say a military crackdown had “genocidal intent.”


Netflix CEO Hastings says no plans for cheaper India offerings

Updated 10 November 2018
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Netflix CEO Hastings says no plans for cheaper India offerings

  • Netflix India scored a big hit in July with the release of “Sacred Games”, a hard-boiled thriller built around Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan
  • Netflix currently has more than 130 million subscribers worldwide, with India market projected to bring in 100 million subscribers more

SINGAPORE: Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said that the streaming video company had no plans for cheaper prices in the hotly competitive India market and that an executive’s comments suggesting otherwise had been “misunderstood.”
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Hastings noted that Netflix had three price tiers in India: 500 rupees ($6.90) for a basic plan, 650 ($9.00) for a standard plan and 800 rupees ($11) for premium. Those prices are only modestly lower than what the company charges in the United States.
But in India, Hastings said, “we see the typical mix across these three plans that we see in many other countries like the US, which would indicate that we don’t have a pricing issue. Because if it was, everyone would be on the lower price plan.”
When asked directly if that meant the company had no plans for lower prices in India, he said: “Correct.”
Hastings’ comments followed a Singapore event where the company introduced 17 new original productions for Asia, including nine for India. He said local production was a key driver of new subscribers in India and elsewhere, but he declined to provide specific figures on Asia subscriber numbers and growth.
Netflix launched in India two years ago and has won fans among a young, tech-savvy middle class in a country where video consumption of all kinds is soaring. It scored a big hit in July with the release of “Sacred Games”, a hard-boiled thriller built around Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan.
Local industry players, however, say Netflix’s prices will make it hard to compete against domestic competitors like 21st Century Fox-backed Hotstar, Amazon’s Prime Video and satellite TV provider Tata Sky.
But Hastings said Netflix could still thrive amid cheaper options.
“Now it is true that Youtube is free, and Amazon is basically free, and cable is extremely inexpensive because it’s ad-supported. To some degree that creates a consumer expectation,” he said. But he added that the cost of Netflix in India was “like going to the movie theater 2-3 tickets a month, but you get to watch a lot more.”
Pricing experiments
Following Netflix’s October earnings announcement, chief product officer Greg Peters said: “We’ll experiment with other pricing models, not only for India, but around the world that will allow us to broaden access by providing a pricing tier that sits below our current lowest tier.”
That was widely understood to signal that a low-price plan was coming to India. But Hastings said that was not the case.
“It got misunderstood as a decision that we are going to have lower prices in India, which is not something we are particularly contemplating,” he said.
Hastings acknowledged the limitations of the current pricing strategy in a country where per-capita income is a tenth of that in the United States.
“It’s true that if you’re trying to get to a billion households, that probably wouldn’t work,” he said. “But if you’re focused on English-language, English-entertainment households, there is a much higher income.”
He called the high-end focus “a practical, realistic” place to start and that the company eventually hoped to target a broader audience.
Netflix currently has more than 130 million subscribers worldwide. Hastings has said the India market could deliver the next 100 million subscribers.