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Facebook hiring human rights chief partly because of PH

/ 09:13 PM September 19, 2018

Facebook is looking to hire a director of human rights policy, and the Philippines appears to be one reason why.

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Among the responsibilities of the new Facebook human rights chief, the company said, will be to drive “investigations into and disruptions of human rights abusers on our platforms” and draft “policies to counteract bad actors.”

Facebook did not elaborate on who these bad actors and human rights abusers are, and the move doesn’t change Facebook’s main goal, which is to attract as many users as it can and come up with new ways to make money from its gargantuan user base.

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But as TechCrunch noted in reporting on Facebook’s new role: “The costs of that growth have been cast into sharp relief over the past several years as the human impact of handing millions of people lacking in digital literacy some very powerful social sharing tools — without a commensurately large investment in local education programs (or even in moderating and policing Facebook’s own platform) — has become all too clear.”

The report cited the most glaring examples: the meddling in US elections; the outbreak of mob violence in India; the rise of ethnic violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and, yes, the rise of a leader who inspired mass killings in the Philippines.

“In the PhilippinesFacebook also played a pivotal role in the election of president Rodrigo Duterte — who now stands accused of plunging the country into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and ‘80s.”

Facebook, the report said, “indirectly has blood on its hands — having provided services to the Duterte government to help it make more effective use of its tools. This same government is now waging a bloody ‘war on drugs’ that Human Rights Watchsays has claimed the lives of around 12,000 people, including children.”

Facebook’s distressing impact on the human rights situation in the Philippines has been widely reported.

Buzzfeed covered this story with the headline How Duterte Used Facebook to Fuel the Philippine Drug War. That report was mentioned in a Columbia Journalism Review article summarizing disturbing incidents related to Facebook users in Facebook Now Linked to Violence in the Philippines, Libya, Germany, Myanmar and India.

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New York Magazine recently ran a story with the headline Facebook Used the Philippines to Test Free Internet. Then a Dictator Was Elected. The story talked about a Facebook initiative to offer what was essentially free internet access in the Philippines. I actually wrote about this initiativewhen I was still covering Facebook as a technology reporter. Part of the plan was to use dronesto “to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world.”

In the Philippines, Facebook launched  “Free Facebook.”As the New York Magazine reported, the project paved the way to abusive behavior that helped lead to the rise of a leader like Duterte.

“We know we were too idealistic about the nature of these connections and didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse or thinking through all the ways people could use the tools on the platform to do harm,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted in the BuzzFeed report.

It’s staggering how Facebook’s challenges have changed dramatically since it went public six years ago.

Back then, the company’s biggest problem was to convince Wall Street that it could actually make lots of money from its mobile users. That now seems like an insignificant hurdle compared to the social media giant’s current dilemma: how to prevent bullies with brazen disregard for human rights and decency in countries like the Philippines from abusing the platform.

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TAGS: Boying Pimentel, Duterte war on drugs, extrajudicial killings, Facebook, human rights, human rights education, human rights violations
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