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Meta should make India Human Rights Impact Assessment public, say rights groups

With other reports being out in shorter time, Facebook has been accused of dithering on its commitment to protect user rights.

Facebook’s India HRIA (Human Rights Impact Assessment) report should be made public in line with the company’s responsibility to respect human rights, a group of 21 rights organisations demanded in a letter addressed to Miranda Simmons, Director of Human Rights at Meta.

In November last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had inordinately delayed the release of the HRIA which was commissioned more than a year ago. External researchers who were involved in the report had raised concerns that Facebook was narrowing its scope, changing definitions, etc.

Facebook has come under increased scrutiny, especially in India, after whistleblowers exposed the social media platform’s inaction on hate speech, among other issues.

Facebook doesn’t seem to be committed to protecting rights, letter reads

Referring to news reports that show a proliferation of hate speech on the platform in India and bias towards the ruling party, the group said that in such a situation the HRIA has to be independent, extensive, and public and any indication otherwise was ‘deeply concerning’.

Facebook is currently perceived to not be committed to respecting rights in India and thus, to gain the trust of human and digital rights communities and its billions of users, Facebook should show that it is committed to an ‘independent, thorough, and ultimately public’ HRIA, the group wrote.

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“We urge the company to release a public, unredacted, and complete India Human Rights Impact Assessment without delay.” — The letter

Signatories of the letter are the Internet Freedom Foundation, Article 21, Access Now, India Civil Watch International, Amnesty International, the Real Facebook Oversight Board (an expert-led alternate Facebook Oversight Board), to name a few.

Previous HRIA reports were done in lesser time

In recent years, Facebook has released executive summaries of its human rights impact assessments carried out in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia. In each instance, the consultants who were engaged completed their work in less than one year, as per WSJ.

The Impact Assessment for India was commissioned in mid-2020 in response to a letter submitted by various Indian civil society groups asking Facebook to address dangerous content in India. Foley Hoag, a US-based law firm that was commissioned to write it, would have “complete independence” in determining the methods and groups to consult but suggested the law firm incorporate feedback from individual Facebook users and vulnerable groups, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg reportedly said.

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I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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