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Facebook confronts human rights dilemma on political speech

The extension of former US President Donald Trump’s ban from the social network by Facebook Inc failed to resolve how it balances freedom of expression and the duty of politicians to ensure hateful language does not cause abuse. Facebook Inc.

The board of 20 people comprising legal experts, advocates, and a former prime minister has upheld the removal of Trump from Facebook, but the organization needs to do even more in order to brace itself for the uncertain political circumstances.

The board concluded that Trump “used the President’s communicative power to help attackers,” and his breach of Facebook’s policy against violent glorification was “severe in its violations of human rights.” It did not exercise its power to inform Facebook that it would permanently ban Trump.

ANALYSIS: Facebook confronts human rights dilemma on political speech |  ABS-CBN News

The six-point Rabat plan takes into account the context and the purpose of the speaker, the material, its scope, and the imminence of damage. Trump, then president, in a Facebook video told the demonstrators that they were “very special,” even though some were already storming into the Capitol. There were 35 million followers on Trump’s account.

But the board chastened Facebook for not reapplying or another testing to decide when Trump’s rights should be restored. It allowed Facebook to decide on Trump’s status for six months and encouraged the company to develop a crisis management strategy that would not preclude imminent harm from its current options.

Facebook said the feedback was reviewed.


The first time that Facebook blocked an existing president, premier, or head of state was Trump’s suspension. In March, President Nicolas Maduro was booted for 30 days for COVID-19 misinformation. The punishment was dubbed “digital totalitarianism” by his government.

Since it became a major source of information, Facebook mostly provided political leaders with freedom because what they say is newsworthy and vital to government functioning. Yet its policing of ruling leaders, and broader political expression, has led to government blows and new regulatory challenges in India, Hungary, and Mexico.

Analysis: Facebook confronts human rights dilemma on political speech |  Reuters

Many advocates of civil society claim that the company is too ready to suppress political opposition and does not have a toolkit to deal with the ways that oppressive regimes manipulate its services, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

In India, users have been criticizing Facebook for slowing the speeches of police hatred and other activities by politicians of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party since last year. In the meantime, the government requested that Facebook delete posts that criticize its pandemic treatment, including those by local legislators.

The Board’s order in Trump is centered on the requirement that any Facebook user, including Trump, be clear on measures that ban them indefinitely and take steps to remove temporary suspensions.

UN Conventions, which provide a generally respected and voluntary structure for international human rights law, state that freedom of speech represents a right to freedom of expression and, therefore, citizens should not undergo arbitrary Facebook muzzling. The business undertook a Corporate Strategy in March, which involves regular follow-up reports, to safeguard certain human rights.

“If you believe in the standards of international human rights law that govern the decision, it’s difficult to see how a lifetime ban EVER could be permitted for any infringement,” tweeted Nate Persily, professor of law at Stanford University on Wednesday.

Analysis: Facebook confronts human rights dilemma on political speech By  Reuters - newsbinding

However, human rights law also requires citizens to be shielded from abuse and other harm.

The Board’s decision, according to Sarah Morris, director of the Open Technology Institute of New America, states Trump’s repeated problem in the run-up to January 6 and its impact on the assault “makes it an especially egregious case that justifies the deflate.”

The Board refused to take the path suggested by a minority of representatives that Trump would not be restored until it was assured that in last year’s election, it had stopped making false statements about the systemic fraud and disavowed support for those involved in the Capitol attack.

If Facebook accepts this condition, the return of Trump will be far removed. He called the presidential election win of Joe Biden 2020 “THE BIG LIE!” repeating the assertion on Monday.

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