Facebook to Publish Annual Report on Human Rights Impacts

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Facebook Inc. will start sharing public annual reports detailing the company’s impact on human rights, seeking to address criticism about the use of its products to organize abuses and violence against oppressed groups around the world.

Top executives, including head of global policy Nick Clegg and general counsel Jen Newstead, will also start providing formal human rights updates to the social media company’s board, and Facebook said it’s starting a new fund to pay for security and support for human rights activists and journalists.

The new corporate policy on human rights standards, unveiled Tuesday, is a first for Facebook, and formalizes a number of commitments the company has already made, said Miranda Sissons, the company’s director of human rights. “Having this policy isn’t some compulsory requirement somewhere. It’s a voluntary act,” she said.

Facebook has come under fire in the past for failing to do enough to police its sites for human rights abuses. In Myanmar, Facebook’s service has been used to coordinate violence against the country’s Rohingya minority, leading to thousands of deaths. Facebook’s social network and its messaging services, including WhatsApp, have also been used to coordinate or encourage other violent deaths in countries like India and Sri Lanka. Many of the issues were caused by Facebook’s pursuit of rapid growth, which critics say led it to launch in countries without necessary safety measures and content moderation services.

“It’s absolutely important for people to articulate that” criticism, Sissons said. “This is an important development. We know it is up to all of us inside the company to make it count.”

The company has gotten more aggressive in combating abuses in recent years, and routinely takes down networks or accounts linked to governments and state-backed military operations. After a military coup in Myanmar in February, Facebook banned a number of pages and accounts linked to the country’s military on Instagram and its main social network.

While Facebook highlights a number of content rules and regulations in a blog post announcing the policy, it didn’t add any new content guidelines Tuesday. The corporate policy also includes issues like anti-slavery and human trafficking due diligence across Facebook’s supply chain.

The company’s first human rights impact report should be published later this year, Sissons said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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