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.”


Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

  • Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday and spent a significant time questioning him about why he has lost some Twitter followers, a person briefed on the matter said.
The meeting, which was organized by the White House last week, came hours after Trump again attacked the social media company over his claims it is biased against conservatives.
“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted, posting a photo of Dorsey and others with him in the Oval Office.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him without providing evidence. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”
Twitter said in a statement Dorsey had a “constructive meeting with the president of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 US elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”
Unlike other major US tech company executives, Dorsey had not previously met with Trump.
He was not invited to a December 2016 meeting with president-elect Trump that featured other major tech companies. Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign.
Trump has been upset about losing followers.
In October, Trump wrote that “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join — they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?“
Any reduction is likely the result of Twitter’s recent moves to remove millions of suspicious accounts after it and other social media services were used in misinformation campaigns attempting to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential race and other elections, Reuters reported in October.
Shares in Twitter jumped 13 percent on Tuesday after it reported quarterly revenue above analyst estimates, which executives said was the result of weeding out spam and abusive posts and targeting ads better.
Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.
Trump has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. But the president and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly criticized the company and its social media competitors for what they have called bias against conservatives, something Twitter denies.
Democratic US Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this month “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”
Carlos Monje, Twitter’s public policy director, said at a Senate hearing earlier this month the site “does not use political viewpoints, perspectives or party affiliation to make any decisions, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce our rules.”