Facebook is addressing the criticism it’s faced for its role in human rights abuses by putting its values on paper in a new “corporate human rights policy” collecting “the human rights standards [it] will strive to respect.” Under the policy, Facebook is committing to providing an annual report on its impact on human rights and a fund for human rights defenders.
The company plans on reporting its “most critical human rights issues, like risks to freedom of expression” to its board of directors. The fund for defenders is concentrated on offline support for activists and journalists, but Facebook’s director of human rights Miranda Sissons says it will continue to support digital security efforts like “thwarting unauthorized access” to activists’ accounts, as well.
While the policy is new, Facebook’s not making any changes to its current community standards, privacy policies, or code of conduct, according to Bloomberg. The “corporate human rights policy” is more of a framework for how it plans to handle issues in the future, and potentially, another way to hold the company accountable if it fails.
Many large, multinational corporations have some kind of human rights policy (here’s Coca-Cola’s), usually designed around guidelines set by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Facebook is just finally collecting all its disparate standards, policies, and guidelines in one place (or PDF), without really streamlining anything.
Facebook’s announcement comes at yet another interesting time for its social media platforms. The company has banned accounts from the military junta that led the coup in Myanmar, a more active approach than how it handled the previous outburst of genocidal violence against the nation’s Rohingya population in the past. At the same time, its Oversight Board, the independent body created to provide guidance on Facebook’s thorniest issues, has delivered its first rulings, including a decision on anti-Muslim hate speech.