Facebook use gave advantages, risks to PH human rights, says firm tapped by Meta | Inquirer News
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Facebook use gave advantages, risks to PH human rights, says firm tapped by Meta

/ 07:00 AM December 03, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A human rights consultant tapped by Meta Platforms, Inc., which handles social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, found out that the use of Facebook in the Philippines gave advantages and risks to the state of human rights.

During a presentation on Thursday, representatives from Meta revealed that they have commissioned Article One, a human rights and ethics consulting firm, to do a human rights impact assessment of the platform in relation to Facebook use, by interviewing 2,000 Facebook users and other stakeholders from 2020 to 2021.

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Article One co-founder and principal Chloe Poynton said that while Facebook provided human rights defenders and other activists an avenue to discuss human rights issues affecting the populace, it also became a tool for several abusers to propagate a culture of misinformation and disinformation.

“There was a couple of key areas where human rights were really advanced by the platform.  The first was for expression and stakeholders recognized that Facebook provides avenues for expressions for all users and it has an outsized impact on specific groups including activists and critics of the government.  It can also be used as a tool to raise awareness of human rights issues, especially prominent in the pandemic, and it’s also an important tool for economic activity,” Poynton said.

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“In terms of negative impact, the first category related to misinformation and disinformation — and this is probably the most widely-reported concern from both stakeholders and Facebook users,” she added.

Such negative practices centered on political disinformation that happened during the 2016 and 2019 elections, which survey respondents feared may be repeated in the 2022 national polls.

Also, Poynton believes that the country fell victim to health misinformation even way before the COVID-19 pandemic when vaccination rates slumped due to rumors surrounding the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

“The two key types of misinformation/ disinformation-related to political disinformation, so we heard that Facebook was used as a key platform to promote political disinformation during the 2016 and 2019 elections, and that there are concerns that this pattern would repeat itself in 2022,” Poynton explained.

“The second is health misinformation, and obviously this became a very big issue not just in the Philippines but globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the Philippines this concern actually predated COVID-19 with misinformation about Dengvaxia, potentially contributing to a plummet from 82 percent in 2015 to 21 percent in 2018 in vaccine confidence among Filipino parents,” she added.

Facebook appears to have been used also for harassment of human rights workers and journalists, as users have targeted the security of those harassed and their respective families.

Over the years, the administration has been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in the drug war and anti-insurgency campaign — complaints that Article One also received from human rights groups and advocates.

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“We found that journalists — many of you I’m sure have experienced this directly especially female journalists working on certain beats such as the drug war of and the Duterte administration are most likely to receive online attacks,” Poynton said.

“Political dissidents also are experiencing a high volume of attacks with stakeholders reporting that the Duterte supporters are organized and deployed to specifically silence any dissent.  Human rights defenders are also targeted with red-tagging and terror-tagging increasingly, and are threatened online across the country, “ she noted.

These human rights impact assessment (HRIA) made by Article One is part of a comprehensive report accepted by Meta, which has vowed to remain transparent in the conduct and resolution of this study, as part of their commitment to advocate for human rights.

According to Miranda Sissons, Meta’s director of human rights, the company has completely implemented or is implementing 25 of Article One’s recommendations regarding the human rights risks, while seven were partially implemented and another nine recommendations being assessed for feasibility.

For example, in response to misinformation and disinformation that may be proliferated during the 2022 national and elections, Article One recommended that Facebook or Meta as a whole develop a risk mitigation plan.

In response, Meta said that they have made a risk mitigation plan for the 2022 elections a high priority.  Aside from that, they are working with local authorities and volunteer groups about the monitoring of social media and for advocacy programs that would heighten voter education.

Also, Meta cited as an example its efforts to stop coordinated inauthentic behavior in Facebook, which has led to the removal of covert social media operations which makes it appear that the campaign was out of organic reach.  Several of the operations were traced to the Philippines, enforced by President Rodrigo Duterte’s former social media handler, and even local armed forces.

READ: Facebook shuts down fake China-based accounts backing Duterte, Sara’s possible presidential bid

“This is an important moment for us as we release the independent of Article One, whom we asked to assess human rights risks of Meta’s platforms and the policy in the Philippines two years ago,” Sissons said.

“We’re doing because it’s important for companies to know their human rights risks and that they share that knowledge with the world, and that they show what they’re doing to prevent or mitigate them,” she added.

Aside from the proliferation of misleading information and harassment of activists and journalists, Article One also noted Facebook’s other negative impacts like the social media site being used for online sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and abuse of certain sectors.

Meta assured that they are implementing measures to address the concerns raised by Article One.

“This assessment is an important step forward for us and our work in the Philippines. How we address safety, security and human rights is not static. We’re constantly working to evolve our products, policies and processes to create better outcomes,” Sissons said.

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TAGS: 2022 national elections, Article One, Chloe Poynton, COVID-19 pandemic, disinformation, Facebook, harassment, Human rights, human rights consultant, human rights defenders, human rights risk, INC, journalists, meta, Meta Platforms, misinformation, Philippine news updates
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