Posts Tagged ‘misinformation’

Vloggers selling their souls to boost image of Arab regimes

September 2, 2020

Mat Nashed in Ozy.com of 1 september 2020 addresses a major but often neglected issue: The Secret Weapon of Arab Regimes — Influencers and Vloggers. It is an excellent piece worth reading in full (see below). I have several times drawn attention to anti-human rights celebrity endorsements [e.g. see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/13/saudi-arabia-finds-that-celebrities-are-easier-to-buy-than-human-rights-ngos/] and sports washing [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/]/

Read the rest of this entry »

More details about Luon Sovath’s framing and Facebook’s role

August 23, 2020

On 23 August 2020 the International New York Times published “Threatened by Facebook disinformation, a Buddhist monk flees Cambodia”  which is a detailed piece about
Cambodian monk and MEA laureate 2012 Luon Sovath, who was the victim of a smear campaign this summer that relied on fake claims and hastily assembled social media accounts designed to discredit an outspoken critic of the country’s authoritarian policies. The New York Times investigation found a lot more…
Re Luon see; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/06/cambodian-monk-council-defrocks-video-monk-luon-sovath/
—–
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/23/world/asia/cambodia-facebook-disinformation.html
https://www.deccanherald.com/international/threatened-by-facebook-disinformation-a-buddhist-monk-flees-cambodia-876659.html

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Witness

April 5, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of the coming weeks. Here the one by Sam Gregory of

…..The immediate implications of coronavirus – quarantine, enhanced emergency powers, restrictions on sharing information –  make it harder for individuals all around the world to document and share the realities of government repression and private actors’ violations.  In states of emergency, authoritarian governments in particular can operate with further impunity, cracking down on free speech and turning to increasingly repressive measures. The threat of coronavirus and its justifying power provides cover for rights-violating laws and measures that history tells us may long outlive the actual pandemic. And the attention on coronavirus distracts focus from rights issues that are both compounded by the impact of the virus and cannot claim the spotlight now.

At WITNESS we are adapting and responding, led by what we learn and hear from the communities of activism, human rights and civic journalism with which we collaborate closely across the world. We will continue to ensure that our guidance on direct documentation helps people document the truth even under trying circumstances and widespread misinformation. We will draw on our experience curating voices and information from closed situations to make sense in confusion. We will provide secure online training while options for physical meeting are curtailed. We will provide meaningful localized guidance on how to document and verify amid an information pandemic; and we will ensure that long-standing struggles are not neglected now when they need it most.

In this crisis moment, it is critical that we enhance the abilities and defend the rights of people who document and share critical realities from the ground. Across the three core thematic issues we currently work on, the need is critical. For issues such as video as evidence from conflict zones, these wars continue on and reach their apex even as coronavirus takes all the attention away. We need only look to the current situation in Idlib, Yemen or in other states of conflict in the Middle East.

For other issues, like state violence against minorities, many people already live in a state of emergency.

Coronavirus response in Complexo do Alemão favela, Rio de Janeiro (credit: Raull Santiago)

Favela residents in Brazil have lived with vastly elevated levels of police killings of civilians for years, and now face a parallel health emergency. Meanwhile immigrant communities in the US have lived in fear of ICE for years and must now weigh their physical health against their physical safety and family integrity. Many communities – in Kashmir and in Rakhine State, Burma – live without access to the internet on an ongoing basis and must still try and share what is happening. And for those who fight for their land rights and environmental justice, coronavirus is both a threat to vulnerable indigenous and poor communities lacking health care, sanitation and state support as well as a powerful distraction from their battle against structural injustice.

A critical part of WITNESS’ strategy is our work to ensure technology companies actions and government regulation of technology are accountable to the most vulnerable members of our global society – marginalized populations globally, particularly those outside the US and Europe, as well as human rights defenders and civic journalists. As responses to coronavirus kick-in there are critical implications in how both civic technology and commercial technology are now being deployed and will be deployed.

Already, coronavirus has acted as an accelerant – like fuel on the fire – to existing trends in technology. Some of these have potentially profound negative impacts for human rights values, human rights documentation and human rights defenders; others may hold a silver lining.

My colleague Dia Kayyali has already written about the sudden shift to much broader algorithmic content moderation that took place last week as Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube sent home their human moderators. Over the past years, we’ve seen the implications of both a move to algorithmic moderation and a lack of will and resourcing: from hate speech staying on platforms in vulnerable societies, to the removal critical war crimes evidence at scale from YouTube, to a lack of accountability for decisions made under the guise of countering terrorist and violent extremist content. But in civil society we did not anticipate that such a shift to more broad algorithmic control would happen so rapidly in such a short period of time. We must closely monitor and push for this change not to adversely affect societies and critical struggles worldwide in a moment when they are already threatened by isolation and increased government repression. As Dia suggests, now is the moment for these companies to finally make their algorithms and content moderation processes more transparent to critical civil society experts, as well as reset on how they support and treat the human beings who do the dirty work of moderation.

WITNESS’s work on misinformation and disinformation spans a decade of supporting the production of truthful, trustworthy content in war zones, crises and long-standing struggles for rights. Most recently we have focused on the emerging threats from deepfakes and other forms of synthetic media that enable increasingly realistic fakery of what looks like a real person saying or doing something they never did.

We’ve led the first global expert meetings in Brazil, Southern Africa and Southeast Asia on what a rights-respecting, global responses should look like in terms of understanding threats and solutions. Feedback from these sessions has stressed the need for attention to a continuum of audiovisual misinformation including ‘shallowfakes’, the simpler forms of miscontextualized and lightly edited videos that dominate attempts to confuse and deceive. Right now, social media platforms are unleashing a series of responses to misinformation around Coronavirus – from highlighting authoritative health information from country-level and international sources, to curating resources, offering help centers, and taking down a wider range of content that misinforms, deceives or price gouges including even leading politicians, such as President Bolsonaro in Brazil. The question we must ask is what we want to see internet companies continue to do after the crisis: what should they do for a wider range of misinformation and disinformation outside of health – and what do we not want them to do? We’ll be sharing more about this in the coming weeks.

And where can we find a technological silver lining? One area may be the potential to discover and explore new ways to act in solidarity and agency with each other online. A long-standing area of work at WITNESS is how to use ‘co-presence’ and livestreaming to bridge social distances and help people witness snd support one another when physical proximity is not possible.

Our Mobil-Eyes Us project supported favela-based activists to use live video to better engage their audiences to be with them, and provide meaningful support. In parts of the world that benefit from broadband internet access, and the absence of arbitrary shutdowns, and the ability to physically isolate, we are seeing an explosion of experimentation in how to operate better in a world that is both physically distanced, yet still socially proximate. We should learn from this and drive experimentation and action in ensuring that even as our freedom of assembly in physical space is curtailed for legitimate (and illegitimate) reasons, our ability to assemble online in meaningful action is not curtailed but enhanced.

In moments of crisis good and bad actors alike will try and push the agenda that they want. In this moment of acceleration and crisis, WITNESS is committed to ensuring an agenda firmly grounded, and led by a human rights vision and the wants and needs of vulnerable communities and human rights defenders worldwide.

Coronavirus and human rights: Preparing WITNESS’s response

 

How Twitter moved from Arab spring to Arab control

July 29, 2019

Social media platforms were essential in the Arab Spring, but governments soon learned how to counter dissent online”, writes
Twitter played an essential role during the Egyptian Revolution and was used to get info to an international audience [File: Steve Crisp/Reuters]
Twitter played an essential role during the Egyptian Revolution and was used to get info to an international audience [File: Steve Crisp/Reuters]

In a series of articles, Al Jazeera examines how Twitter in the Middle East has changed since the Arab Spring. Government talking points are being magnified through thousands of accounts during politically fraught times and silencing people on Twitter is only part of a large-scale effort by governments to stop human rights activists and opponents of the state from being heard. In the next part of this series, Al Jazeera will look at how Twitter bots influenced online conversation during the GCC crisis on both sides of the issue.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/exists-demobilise-opposition-twitter-fails-arabs-190716080010123.html

Social media councils – an answer to problems of content moderation and distribution??

June 17, 2019

In the running debate on the pros and cons of information technology, and it complex relation to freedom of information, the NGO Article 19 comes on 11 june 2019 with an interesting proposal “Social Media Councils“.

Social Media Councils: Consultation - Digital

In today’s world, dominant tech companies hold a considerable degree of control over what their users see or hear on a daily basis. Current practices of content moderation on social media offer very little in terms of transparency and virtually no remedy to individual users. The impact that content moderation and distribution (in other words, the composition of users’ feeds and the accessibility and visibility of content on social media) has on the public sphere is not yet fully understood, but legitimate concerns have been expressed, especially in relation to platforms that operate at such a level of market dominance that they can exert decisive influence on public debates.

This raises questions in relation to international laws on freedom of expression and has become a major issue for democratic societies. There are legitimate motives of concern that motivate various efforts to address this issue, particularly regarding the capacity of giant social media platforms to influence the public sphere. However, as with many modern communication technologies, the benefits that individuals and societies derive from the existence of these platforms should not be ignored. The responsibilities of the largest social media companies are currently being debated in legislative, policy and academic circles across the globe, but many of the numerous initiatives that are put forward do not sufficiently account for the protection of freedom of expression.

In this consultation paper, ARTICLE 19 outlines a roadmap for the creation of what we have called Social Media Councils (SMCs), a model for a multi-stakeholder accountability mechanism for content moderation on social media. SMCs aim to provide an open, transparent, accountable and participatory forum to address content moderation issues on social media platforms on the basis of international standards on human rights. The Social Media Council model puts forward a voluntary approach to the oversight of content moderation: participants (social media platforms and all stakeholders) sign up to a mechanism that does not create legal obligations. Its strength and efficiency rely on voluntary compliance by platforms, whose commitment, when signing up, will be to respect and execute the SMC’s decisions (or recommendations) in good faith.

With this document, we present these different options and submit them to a public consultation. The key issues we seek to address through this consultation are:

  • Substantive standards: could SMCs apply international standards directly or should they apply a ‘Code of Human Rights Principles for Content Moderation’?
  • Functions of SMCs: should SMCs have a purely advisory role or should they be able to review individual cases?
  • Global or national: should SMCs be created at the national level or should there be one global SMC?
  • Subject-matter jurisdiction: should SMCs deal with all content moderation decisions of social media companies, or should they have a more specialised area of focus, for example a particular type of content?

The consultation also seeks input on a number of technical issues that will be present in any configuration of the SMC, such as:

  1. Constitution process
  2. Structure
  3. Geographic jurisdiction (for a national SMC)
  4. Rules of procedure (if the SMC is an appeals mechanism)
  5. Funding

An important dimension of the Social Media Council concept is that the proposed structure has no exact precedent: the issue of online content moderation presents a new and challenging area. Only with a certain degree of creativity can the complexity of the issues raised by the creation of this new mechanism be solved.

ARTICLE 19’s objective is to ensure that decisions on these core questions and the solutions to practical problems sought by this initiative are compatible with the requirements of international human rights standards, and are shaped by a diverse range of expertise and perspectives.

Read the consultation paper

Complete the consultation survey

https://www.article19.org/resources/social-media-councils-consultation/

Fake news also in the human rights arena: who would give a Human Rights award to Duterte?

December 21, 2016

Republished as some readers could not properly see the post: This blog has a special interest in human rights awards, so I noted with dismay that according to some obscure sources President Duterte of the Philippines had been given an international human rights award.  The announcement looked like this:

“International Human Rights Committee to Award President Duterte = AUGUST 18, 2016

DUTERTE AWARD

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been named as one of the honorees in the annual Human Rights Award by the International Human Rights Committee.”

Unable to find any confirmation elsewhere I wrote to the American Bar Association which has an award and an ‘International Human Rights Committee’. No reply received yet but in the meantime I saw yesterday the “Fake news alert!” published on December 14, 2016 in Busted. And indeed it seems that fake news has also entered the human rights awards arena:

Various Facebook Duterte supporter groups such as “Duterte Warriors”, “Duterte News Global”, and “Duterte Media” have been sharing news of President Duterte being awarded by the International Human Rights Committee. According to the news article sourced from Trending News PH, President Rodrigo Duterte was named as one of the honorees in the annual Human Rights Award held by the International Human Rights Committee. This “committee” was said to have bestowed this award to Duterte for his “exemplary service in the promotion of human rights.” However, the said article is not linked to any other source and no major news outlets have reported on the headline. Furthermore, upon closer inspection, there are numerous inconsistencies on the dates the groups posted the article. The article itself was posted 4 months ago while the groups posted on September and October, with the “Duterte Warriors” group sharing the post twice, once in August and another in September. What was the point of posting the same news article more than once and on different months?

Moreover, the photo used in the article was originally a photo taken during LPU’s Quality Awards Convocation wherein Duterte, still a mayor that time, was awarded as the Most Outstanding Alumnus of Lyceum of the Philippines University in 2015. [http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/677750/duterte-is-lpus-outstanding-alumnus]

Even if it would turn out that some biased or incompetent committee did bestow a minor award, it does not change the fact that Duterte has  issues with human rights defenders for the way he is conducting his war on drugs. In fact, recently, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs demanded that Duterte should renounce his earlier statement that seemed to threaten the lawyers of alleged drug dealers. “Duterte’s threats against lawyers and human rights defenders constitute a dangerous extension of his abusive ‘war on drugs’ that has already resulted in more than 5,000 killings,” HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/02/duterte-is-wrong-human-rights-defenders-are-beautiful/

See also Front Line Defenders on 1 December: “On 28 November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened (<http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/848933/duterte-threatens-to-kill-human-rights-activists-if-drug-problem-worsens)> to kill human rights defenders in the Philippines in his speech in Malacañang. “The human rights (defenders) said I ordered the killings. I told them, ‘OK Let’s stop. We’ll let them (drug users) multiply so that when it’s harvest time, more people will die, I will include you  because you are the reason why their numbers swell,” referring to human rights defenders.`

Sources:

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/12/03/1649760/duterte-urged-retract-kill-threat-vs-hr-activists

http://www.vocativ.com/379354/philippines-online-army/

Busted: International Human Rights award given to Duterte? Fake news alert!

UN Human Rights Commissioner speaks out over Katie Hopkins ‘cockroaches’ column in the Sun

April 27, 2015

I hope that this reaction by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was widely disseminated. For those who missed it – and to illustrate why an independent Office is needed [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/joint-inspection-unit-on-human-rights-not-so-innocent-as-it-sounds/] – here is how Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has criticised the UK tabloid Sun for allowing Katie Hopkins to describe migrants as ‘cockroaches‘ in a recent column. Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain misinformation about the UN exposed and – hopefully – it backfires

June 8, 2011

Amidst the many reports on violations of human rights in Bahrain, especially the vulnerable situation of human rights defenders, a surprising announcement caught my eye on 8 June: the GULF DAILY NEWS – The voice of Bahrain stated under the headline “UN raps lies about Bahrain” that:  “A top UN official yesterday admitted it received false information about what happened in Bahrain during the unrest. “Certain information which we received about the developments in Bahrain was untrue,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Dr Navi Pillay said as she held talks with Social Development Minister and Acting Health Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Children’s Rights Committee in Geneva. Dr Pillay acknowledged that the situation in Bahrain is by far different, and is thus incomparable to ongoing unrest in other countries in the region….Dr Al Balooshi briefed Dr Pillay on the current situation in Bahrain, stressing that things had returned to normal {sic}.”

So I was very relieved to read just now that UN rights chief slams ‘blatant distortion’ in reports of her meeting with Bahrain officials (AP, UPI and many others).  The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, sharply criticizes Bahrain for inaccurate reports by its state-run news agency on her meeting with government officials in Geneva last week and flatly denies telling Bahrain officials that her office received “misinformation” about Bahrain’s crackdown on anti-government protesters. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, says that the High Commissioner “made no such statement and is disturbed by this blatant distortion of her words” and that she will formally request government officials who attended the meeting to issue a correction.

And I now see that the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) declines responsibility referring to the report it received from the Ministry of Social Development, but this statement contains no such quote from the High Commissioner, see for yourself on http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/459935!