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Facebook and Twitter Face International Scrutiny After Trump Ban

  • January 17, 2021

“Our policies are applied to everyone,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said in a recent interview with Reuters. “The policy is that you can’t incite violence, you can’t be part of inciting violence.”

Twitter, which has about 190 million daily users globally, said its rules for world leaders were not new. When it reviews posts that could incite violence, Twitter said, the context of the events is crucial.

“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said in a post on Wednesday. Yet, he said, the decision “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

There are signs that Facebook and Twitter have begun acting more assertively. After the Capitol attack, Twitter updated its policies to say it would permanently suspend the accounts of repeat offenders of its rules on political content. Facebook took action against a number of accounts outside the United States, including deleting the account of a state-run media outlet in Iran and shutting down government-run accounts in Uganda, where there has been violence ahead of elections. Facebook said the takedowns were unrelated to the Trump decision.

Many activists singled out Facebook for its global influence and not applying rules uniformly. They said that in many countries it lacked the cultural understanding to identify when posts might incite violence. Too often, they said, Facebook and other social media companies do not act even when they receive warnings.

In 2019 in Slovakia, Facebook did not take down posts by a member of Parliament who was convicted by a court and stripped of his seat in government for incitement and racist comments. In Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said the company was slow to act to the involvement of government officials in a social media campaign to smear a prominent Buddhist monk championing human rights. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has used Facebook to target journalists and other critics.

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